Sunday, April 1, 2012
Last year I planted this periwinkle (Vinca minor) in my yard because I love its soft purple pinwheels. However, once I started doing a little research I realized it is non-native and can be aggressive. It spreads by sending out runners and will choke out weeds, but also your more desirable plants too. As with many non-natives, if you don't want it to spread you must be very vigilant about cutting it back.
Even though it is an "evil" non-native, I have to admit everything about this flower is cute...from its adorable shape to its interesting name. While looking up periwinkle I discovered it shares its name with a small edible sea snail called the common periwinkle or winkle (Littorina littorea). The word "winkle" is also a verb which means "To pry, extract, or force from a place or position. Often used with out." There is an interesting discussion here about the name and I liked their suggestion that both the snail and the flower are difficult to extract.
I also discovered it is sometimes called pennywinkle (my favorite), blue buttons, creeping myrtle, wilk, cutfingers, cockles (another mollusk reference!) and in Italy, centochhio, "the hundred eyes" for its "impressive mass of blooms that peer out from the plant’s foliage" (source: Gardening Central.org).