This section is from the book "British Wild Flowers - In Their Natural Haunts Vol2-4", by A. R. Horwood. Also available from Amazon: A British Wild Flowers In Their Natural Haunts.
The blue flowers of this choice plant adorn the countryside in the North Temperate Zone in Europe, South of Denmark generally, but not in Greece, and W. Asia. In Great Britain it is found in the Peninsula, Channel, Thames, and Anglia provinces, except in Hunts; Northants, in the Severn province; in S. Wales, only in Glamorgan, Pembroke, Carmarthen, Anglesea; in the Trent province, in S. Lincs or Derby; throughout the Mersey, Humber, and Tyne provinces; in Cumberland and the Isle of Man; in the W. Lowlands, not in Wigtown; in the E. Lowlands, only in Berwick, Edinburgh, Linlithgow; in the E. Highlands, in Perth, Forfar, S. Aberdeen, Banff, Elgin, and E. Sutherland.
It is often only naturalized. Watson regards it as a denizen, and says he has not seen it in a certainly native state, though quasi-wild in many counties.
The Small Periwinkle, suspected as it is of running wild from gardens, etc, is found in all parts of the country in woodlands, especially small plantations of no considerable antiquity, where it grows amongst herbage and trees in tangled profusion, but certainly it usually suggests that originally it was planted.
The trailing habit of this pretty wild flower causes it to be overlooked. The stems are lying down, rooting, simple, smooth. The leaves are opposite, stalked, like Privet, oval, acute, with a smooth margin.
The flowers are a beautiful blue colour, at length falling, borne on erect flower-stalks, with a white eye, inclined to be double. The smooth calyx is only about a third as long as the corolla and does not fall. The corolla is cup-like with the tube spreading above, below cylindrical.
The plant is 4 ft. in length when luxuriant. It is in flower between March and September. It is an evergreen trailer, propagated by seed.
Sprengel supposed it was pollinated by Thrips transferring pollen from the anthers to the stigma by creeping in and out, but it was observed by Darwin that an insect inserting a long thin proboscis would become smeared with a sticky substance to which pollen would adhere, and this would be transferred in the next flower to the stig-matic disk. The flowers are conspicuous. There is abundant honey, which attracts numerous insects when it is fine. The tube of the corolla is 11 mm. long, but enlarged so that insects can insert their heads as far as the anther-hairs. The two yellow nectaries at the base of the ovary are 8 mm. below, and protected from rain by the hairs at the entrance.
Photo. B. Hanley - Small Periwinkle (vinca Minor, L.)
The stamens are bent, attached half-way up the tube. The anthers project above the stigma, which is conical, enlarged above with a flat plate at the top, sticky along the rim, hairy above. The pollen falls above the latter. Insects sipping the honey carry off the pollen to fresh stigmas.
The Lesser Periwinkle is visited by Bombus, Anthophora, Osmia, Bombylius discolor, Thysanoptera, Thrips.
The fruit is a follicle, which is rare. It is adapted for dispersal of the seeds by the wind, the seeds being compressed, winged, and provided with hairs.
Two moths, Daphnia nerii (Oleander Hawk-moth), Clouded Bordered Brindle (Triphcena janthina), feed upon it.
Vinca is the Pervinca of Pliny, and Periwinkle comes from this, the second Latin name denoting that it is smaller than the other Periwinkle.
The plant is called Blue Buttons, Dicky Dilver, Ground Ivy, Periwinkle, Sen Green. It was supposed to inspire love, and called Death's flower, being scattered over the graves of children in Italy and Tuscany. It was said to signify early recollections or pleasures of memory. Rousseau was struck with their appearance in a hedge when going to Charmattes, and thirty years afterwards, in company with Mme De Stael he saw the flower, and it reminded him of the occasion again. It is much cultivated in grardens and shrubberies.
Essential Specific Characters: 208. Vinca minor, L. - Stem procumbent, wiry, with erect leafy shoots, leaves lanceolate, margins smooth, flowers blue, solitary.