Periwinkle (Vinca major)
Dogbane family (Apocynaceae)
Photo courtesy of Amadej Tmkoczy
Description: Periwinkle is a spreading perennial vine with smooth, dark green stems that contain milky latex. The non-flowering stems grow close to the ground, rooting at the nodes and extending outward to three feet. Flowering stems grow erect to knee-high with solitary flowers developing in the leaf axil. The purplish-blue flowers have five equal petals fused at the base. Five stamens attach near the top of the corolla tube, which is hairy within.
Habitat: Periwinkle prefers a Mediterranean climate and frost-free, damp, shaded soils. It has escaped from gardens and old homesteads where it has been used as an ornamental groundcover and is commonly found spreading from moist roadside locations where it had been dumped. It can be a forest pest as it displaces native forest ground cover.
Distribution: Native to southern Europe and northern Africa, periwinkle was introduced to the United States as an ornamental groundcover and medicinal herb. Its range extends from California throughout the southern United States. In California it is found up to 610 feet elevation in most coastal counties, the Central Valley and desert areas.
Flowering period: Blooms beginning March and continues through July.
It spreads vegetatively and is not known to reproduce sexually in California.
The plant spreads by sprawling stems that form a shallow root at the nodes. This creates a carpet of vegetation. Wet periods rapidly accelerate vegetative growth. Periwinkle will die back in a frost, but will resprout when optimal conditions return. It does not grow well in dry soil or direct sunlight, but does will in a moist microclimate with shaded areas.
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