I Spy in the Sea to Sky…

I Spy in the Sea to Sky…
I Spy in the Sea to Sky…

This week’s feature plant is no stranger to our backyards. Indeed, this plant is one of the top 6 invasive species still sold in BC, according to the Invasive Species Council of BC.

Creeping and crawling and spreading my curse,

Common Periwinkle (Photo credit: B. Brett)

The plants I cover end up in a hearse, 

Lying in wait for spring to be sprung, 

When my purple flowers will bloom in the sun. 

Small (or Common) Periwinkle (Vinca minor) was introduced from Europe and came to North America as an ornamental as early as the 1700s. Beloved for its ability to form dense mats of evergreen leaves and pale blue flowers, the plant is highly adaptable and can be cultivated in various soil types and environmental conditions. As a result, the garden escapee has formed monocultures in unintended areas such as forests, meadows, and watercourses. 

Small Periwinkle is easily distinguished from other plants with its pale blue to lavender pinwheel-like flowers that bloom in May and June. However, without flowers, the green, dense foliage can be quite unassuming. Moreover, it is often mistaken for its relative and fellow invasive, Large Periwinkle (Vinca major). As the name suggests, the major difference between the two is the size of their flowers and leaves. Large Periwinkle has larger, broader, and oval-shaped leaves, while Small Periwinkle has smaller, elongated, and lance-shaped leaves. 

(Photo credit: J. Ross)

Small Periwinkle is an aggressive invader that overtakes native plants, shading them out and stealing resources. Its allelopathic effect also inhibits the germination and seedling growth of native plants, further suppressing native plant colonies. Additionally, as it commonly grows on riverbanks, Small Periwinkle can increase erosion due to its shallow root system. And if it can get any worse, Small Periwinkle is also inedible and is toxic to humans and animals! 

It’s important to avoid planting Small Periwinkle in your garden or using it in landscaping. But not to worry, there are many native plant alternatives, as listed in the Grow Me Instead Brochure. 

As the SSISC Plants list shows, we work to strategically control Small Periwinkle infestations in Squamish; contain its spread in Whistler and prevent its establishment in Pemberton. Think you’ve spotted Small Periwinkle? Please report any sightings

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