Periwinkle - Vinca difformis
by Tony Hall
This lovely little flower that always reminds me of miniature windmills! It is a common plant found blooming from February through to May, and grows in all 8 provinces of Andalucia. It favours tucking itself away in shady damp areas, but will also be found in roadside ditches and more open areas that are not in full sun.
It has glossy evergreen leaves that are in opposite pairs and a creeping habit with stems that root into the soil where their nodes touch the ground, sometimes creating great carpets. The flowers are usually pale blue, occasionally white and are held on erect individual stems from the leaf axils. They have 5 sepals that are cut off obliquely on the ends. The seeds are produced in long pointed seed pods, which is one of the identifying features of this plant's family, Apocynaceae. The family also includes Oleanders and strangely, Caralluma europaea, a succulent that grows in the Almeria province and in North Africa.
There is a second species, Vinca major, which is not as common, grows in the west and differs from V. difformis by having a slightly later flowering period, larger flowers and leaves with hairy margins.
Tony Hall, Manager of the Arboretum and Gardens at the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, specialising in the plants of Andalucía.