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Katherine Loves Catharanthus

by Katherine Wagner-Reiss

Catharanthus roseus

Ever since I was a young Girl Scout, I’ve loved trees and flowers, but working and raising a family kept me too busy to study them in depth.

After I retired, I earned my Certificate in Botany from the New York Botanical Garden. Now, I share my interest by giving botanical tours, writing botanical blogs, and teaching local classes for seniors in my community.

I have a somewhat unique perspective in that I love plant names as much as I love plants themselves! For instance, take Catharanthus roseus. “Cathar” means pure (shoutout to all of us Catharines of various spelling permutations !), “anthus” means flowered and “roseus” means rose–colored. The common name is also endearing: rosy periwinkle.

The alkaloids of this plant are the source of the powerful anti-cancer drugs, vincristine and vinblastine; the drugs derive the “vin” in their names from Vinca rosea, a synonym for Catharanthus roseus.

Learning the meanings behind the names of the plants helps me to remember the special traits of the many spore-bearing, cone-bearing, and flower-bearing plants that I love, both in the Northeast and in my new home state of Florida. (P.S. Florida means flowering!)

Read more about Katherine's work on her Botanical Tours blog.


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