Another flower that is flourishing in the neglected historical cemetery in Grahamstown is the Vinca (Catharanthus roseus).

Apparently originating from Madagascar, these tough plants seem to flourish sans care in our hot and dry conditions. Thus it is no surprise that it is known as Kanniedood (cannot die) in Afrikaans. Its toughness and ability to seed itself and flourish anywhere has also earned it the moniker of ‘graveyard flower’ in some parts of the country. Another common name is Rosy periwinkle.

These flowers were most likely introduced as a useful ornamental plant – who would turn down flowers that bloom in the drought – but, like so many ‘imports’, has escaped beyond garden borders to become particularly invasive in KwaZulu-Natal, Mpumalanga and Limpopo. So widespread is this flower that it has become naturalised in practically all tropical countries.

I clearly recall these flowers growing ‘wild’ in our garden in Mpumalanga when I was a child. It was one of the few flowers my mother did not mind me picking to decorate the various fairy gardens I created in between the roots of some of the trees.

The flowers are pollinated by butterflies and moths. Seeds tend to be dispersed by ants, wind and water.


  1. Known as Sadabahar ( always blooming) in India. I, too, grew up with this flower in the same colour. And started liking it only when I found it in white and magenta.


    • I remember you writing about this flower some time ago, Jaya. Sadabahar sounds like a very apt name for it – always blooming – for that is so characteristic of these flowers.

      Liked by 1 person

    • We get those ones here too and, although they are still popular in gardens, they are regarded as an invasive weed in some parts of the country.


  2. Seeing the title my mind immediately went to Mrs Bucket and her Royal Doulton set with the handpainted periwinkles. Sounds much better than “… handpainted graveyard flowers”… 😀


  3. Vinca is invasive here in Kansas. My husband likes that it “naturalizes” and I see it as overtaking our yard, uninvited. We were just disagreeing about its presence a few days ago. It doesn’t get very pretty flowers, to motivate me to keep it.


      • I don’t mind that type of invasive plant! I never started plants from seeds, but started some Forget-me-Nots about a decade ago. I just wanted some fillers for some bare spots. They are like a bad penny and keep coming up every Spring/early Summer, growing wild-like in the garden.

        Liked by 1 person

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