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Vinca major, greater periwinkle

Summary

Vinca major is not a poisonous plant but confusion between it and Catharanthus rosea (formerly Vinca rosea) leads to its inclusion in poison plant lists.

Family

Apocynaceae

Meaning of the Name

Vinca
From the Latin ‘vincire’, ‘to bind about or fetter’ based on its trailing habit.
 
major
Larger than the main species of the genus.

Common Names and Synonyms

greater periwinkle, violette des sorciers, sorcerer's violet.

Vinca major, greater periwinkle

Vinca major, greater periwinkle

How Poisonous, How Harmful?

There is no reason to consider the Vinca major poisonous.

Catharanthus rosea (formerly Vinca rosea), the Madagascar periwinkle, does contain a group of alkaloids including vinchristine and vinblastine both of which are used in chemotherapy. Chemotherapy is, of course, controlled poisoning.

In unevidenced herbal medicine, Vinca major has been used to treat high blood pressure and control excessive bleeding. Excess results in hypotension, low blood pressure, which can cause collapse.

Vinca major is said to be a close relative of the oleander but has no record of causing harm.

Incidents

No reported incidents for Vinca major. For Catharanthus rosea the often unpleasant side effects of chemotherapy should be considered as poisonings.

It is not included in the Horticultural Trades Association list of potentially harmful plants and there is only one reference to it in the 'International Poisonous Plants Checklist' and that to a 1946 article about poisonous plants in general.

Folklore and Facts

The flower of the plant is the symbol of the Lymphoma Association which holds an annual fundraising Periwinkle Ball.

This use seems to result from the confusion with Catharanthus rosea.

The 16th century book entitled ‘the boke of secretes of Albertus Magnus of the vertues of Herbes, Stones and certaine beastes’, talks of the power of periwinkle to produce love between a man and his wife. It must be powdered and mixed with leeks and earthworms and then added to the couple’s meals.

The Apuleius Platonicus also imbues periwinkle with some remarkable powers. It is the first plant to choose to combat sickness brought on by the Devil, protect against snakes and other wild beasts as well as being an antidote to many poisons. If you carry it with you, you will be prosperous and well received by strangers.

IMPORTANT NOTE

The POISON GARDEN website is not connected with Alnwick Garden Enterprises Ltd and/or The Alnwick Garden Trust.

 

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Introduction to the A to Z section
Abrus precatorius, rosary pea
Aconitum lycoctonum, wolfsbane
Aconitum napellus, monkshood
Actaea racemosa, black cohosh
Actaea spicata, baneberry
Aesculus hippocastanum, horse chestnut
Amanita muscaria, fly agaric
Aquilegia atrata, columbine
Aristolochia clematitis, birthwort
Artemisia absinthium, wormwood
Arum italicum, Italian cuckoopint
Arum maculatum, cuckoopint
Aspergillus fumigatus
Atropa belladonna, deadly nightshade
Brugmansia suaveolens, angel's trumpet
Bryonia dioica, bryony
Buxus sempervirens, common box
Camellia sinensis, tea
Cannabis sativa, marijuana
Catha edulis, khat
Chelidonium majus, greater celandine
Cimicifuga racemosa, black cohosh
Claviceps purpurea, ergot
Clematis vitalba, old man's beard
Colchicum autumnale, naked ladies
Conium maculatum, poison hemlock
Convallaria majalis, lily of the valley
Cynoglossum officinale, hound’s tongue
Daphne mezereon, spurge olive
Datura stramonium, thorn apple, jimsonweed
Datura suaveolens, angel's trumpet
Delphinium, larkspur
Digitalis spp., foxglove
Dracunculus vulgaris, dragon arum
Echium vulgare, viper’s bugloss
Eranthis hyemalis, winter aconite
Erythroxylum coca, cocaine
Euonymus europaeus, spindle tree
Euphorbia x martinii, red spurge
Euphorbia pulcherrima, poinsettia
Fritillaria spp., fritillary
Galanthus nivalis, snowdrop
Hedera helix, common ivy
Helleborus spp., hellebore
Heracleum mantegazzianum, giant hogweed
Hyacinthoides non-scripta, bluebell
Hyoscyamus niger, black henbane
Ilex aquifolium, holly
Jacobaea vulgaris, ragwort
Juniperus communis, common juniper
Laburnum anagyroides, laburnum
Lactuca serriola, prickly lettuce
Leucojum aestivum, snowflake
Lithospermum officinale, gromwell
Lolium temulentum, darnel
Malus 'John Downie', crab apple
Mandragora officinarum, mandrake
Mercurialis perennis, dog’s mercury
Narcissus, daffodil
Nepeta faassenii, catmint
Nerium oleander, oleander
Nicotiana sylvestris, tobacco
Oenanthe crocata, hemlock water dropwort
Papaver somniferum, opium poppy
Pastinaca sativa, parsnip
Polygonatum odoratum, angular Solomon's seal
Prunus laurocerasus, cherry laurel
Pulsatilla vulgaris, pasque flower
Ranunculus acris, meadow buttercup
Rheum x hybridum, rhubarb
Rhododendron spp.
Rhus radicans, poison ivy
Ricinus communis, castor oil plant
Rosmarinus officinalis, rosemary
Rumex obtusifolius, broad-leaved dock
Ruta graveolens, rue
Salix alba, white willow
Salvia divinorum, sage
Scutellaria laterifolia, Virginian skullcap
Senecio jacobaea, ragwort
Solanum dulcamara, woody nightshade
Solanum melongena, aubergine
Strychnos nux-vomica, poison nut
Symphoricarpos albus, snowberry
Symphytum spp., comfrey
Taxus baccata, yew
Toxicodendron radicans, poison ivy
Thevetia peruviana, yellow oleander
Urtica dioica, stinging nettle
Veratrum album, white hellebore
Verbascum olympicum, Greek mullein
Vinca major, greater periwinkle
Viscum album, mistletoe
Vitex agnus-castus, chaste tree