Lesser Periwinkle
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Lesser Periwinkle
ntroduced Photo: Tabish
Common name: Lesser periwinkle
Botanical name: Vinca minor    Family: Apocynaceae (Oleander family)

Lesser periwinkle is a trailing subshrub, spreading along the ground and rooting along the stems to form large clonal colonies and occasionally scrambling up to 40 cm high but never twining or climbing. The leaves are evergreen, opposite, 2-4.5 cm long and 1-2.5 cm broad, glossy dark green with a leathery texture and an entire margin. The flowers are solitary in the leaf axils and are produced mainly from early spring to mid summer but with a few flowers still produced into the autumn; they are violet-purple (pale purple or white in some cultivated selections), 2-3 cm diameter, with a five-lobed flower. The fruit is a pair of follicles 2.5 cm long, containing numerous seeds. Like many herbs, periwinkle once had ties with magic and superstition. Supposedly the herb could ward off evil spirits, and in some places lesser periwinkle was held that no witch would dare enter a home where it hung at the entrance. In France the flower of lesser periwinkle is sometimes referred to as violette des sorciers, or "violet of the sorcerers."
Medicinal uses: The plant is sedative and tonic. It contains the alkaloid 'vincamine', which is used by the pharmaceutical industry as a cerebral stimulant and vasodilator. Since the discovery of vincamine in the leaves, the plant has been used herbally to treat arteriosclerosis and for dementia due to insufficient blood supply to the brain. The leaves are bitter, detergent and stomachic. Taken internally, they are used in the treatment of internal bleeding, heavy menstrual bleeding and nosebleeds. When crushed and applied to wounds they have astringent and healing properties. A mouthwash is used to treat gingivitis, sore throats and mouth ulcers.

Identification credit: Tabish Photographed in Nainital

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