Periwinkle, the Color of Poison, Modernism, and Dusk

Periwinkle goes by many names. You might know her by one of her more fabulous monikers, like sorcerer’s violet or fairy’s paintbrush. In Italy, she is called fiore di morte (flower of death), because it was common to lay wreaths of the evergreen on the graves of dead children. The flower is sometimes associated with marriage (and may have been the “something blue” in the traditional wedding rhyme), sometimes associated with sex work (because of its supposed aphrodisiac properties) and also with executions. I grew up calling her vinca, a pretty little two-syllable name, taken from her proper Latin binomial, Vinca minor. My mother cultivated periwinkle in our forested Massachusetts backyard, encouraging the hardy green vines to trail over the boulders and under the ferns. I would have been delighted to know even a fraction of vinca lore back then, but I knew nothing except she was poison. I could eat the royal-purple dog violets, but I was not to pick the vinca. Vinca was poison and poison meant death… More here.

Brilliant writing, just brilliant.

1 thought on “Periwinkle, the Color of Poison, Modernism, and Dusk

  1. Yes, beautiful article! I’ve always wondered why different shades of purple were so enchanting to me.

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