ORRIN MORRIS: Drought tolerant periwinkle is difficult to contain

The Psalmist spoke of the shelter God provides when he wrote, "He shall cover thee with his feathers, and under his wings shalt thou trust" (Psalm 91:4).

Jesus used a similar image when He grieved over the spiritual blindness of the Hebrew leaders. "O Jerusalem ... how often would I have gathered thy children together, as a hen doth gather her brood under her wings..." (Luke 13:34 KJV).

These verses picture the nature of God as protector, that is, the provider of shelter from the wintry blasts of evil for those who trust Him. This does not mean the faithful will not face adversity, but it does say that God's presence in the storms of life gives us strength to grow and "bloom" through the trial.PERIWINKLE

Vinca minorThe periwinkle started as a cultivated plant but escaped into the wild. It is present throughout the South as a low evergreen vine with a lavender-blue flower.

There are five petals attached to a pentagonal throat that protects the pistil and stamen. The pentagonal structure is white and makes a fascinating contrast to the bluish petals.

The lavender-blue flower is funnel-shaped with five four-sided petals. A white "star" is formed where the petals attach to the funnel. The 1-inch flowers form at the leaf axils.

The leaves along the vines are -inch long and grow in opposite pairs. The leaves at the ends of the vine and branches are 1 -inches long and are in clusters of four.

Periwinkle is often found in great patches on the sides of roads that pass through woods, both hardwood and pine.

The plant is drought-tolerant, so once started it is hard to contain. It can become a pest, but the best attribute the periwinkle has besides its beautiful flowers is that it stays on the ground, rather than climbing up everything like wisteria, honeysuckle or kudzu.

This low-trailing plant rarely grows taller than 12 inches. The botanical sources on which I normally rely write that it generally blooms in April and May, but I have seen it blooming in January, and, on rare occasions, in midsummer.

Its habitat is any undisturbed soil in shady areas. It can be controlled by mowing and thus used as an evergreen ground cover under trees in one's yard.

Periwinkle is an herb that has been used as an astringent and as a sedative. It appears in some remedies for diarrhea, hemorrhaging, toothache and nosebleed, according to John Lust's "The Herb Book."

However, be careful experimenting with herbs in nature since concentration of the beneficial elements may vary widely due to weather trends and chemical composition of the soil.

Orrin Morris is a retired Baptist minister, local artist and art teacher. This column is included in a two-volume set of books of wildflower columns he has published. To purchase the books, visit the Nature Seen Gallery & Frame Shop, 914 Center Street in Olde Town Conyers.