Small Periwinkle is also known as Common Periwinkle or Lesser Periwinkle.
General: Small Periwinkle is an evergreen to semi-evergreen trailing perennial.
Flowers: Pale blue to lavender, up to 3 cm wide. There is one flower per stem, which consists of 5 petals arranged pinwheel-style. Periwinkle blooms in late spring or early summer.
Stem: Evergreen, tender stems, 10 – 60cm long, branched out to form a trailing or spreading groundcover. Stems contain a milky latex.
Leaves: Shiny, dark green and opposite, 3 – 9 cm long. Shape is narrowly elliptical.
Seeds: Grow in 3 – 5 cm long, cylindrical pods.
Large Periwinkle (Vinca major): There are two kinds of invasive periwinkle, small (Vinca minor) and large (Vinca major). As the name suggests, the major difference between the two is the size of their leaves. V. major has slightly larger and broader leaves, that are in an oval or heart shape (pictured to the left). V. minor has smaller, elongated leaves that are lance-shaped.
Learn more about Small vs Large Periwinkle here.
Madagascar Periwinkle (Catharantheus Roseus): This plant is from the same family (Apocynaceae) as Small Periwinkle, and has similar looking leaves and flowers. This plant can be distinguished from other periwinkle species by it’s pink flowers, and more upright stems. It typically grows in hotter climates, such as Madagascar or the southern US, and is not found in the Sea to Sky.
Habitat and Origin
Periwinkle will thrive in a variety of soils, from sandy to clay soils, both well-drained and moist. It tends to prefer shade or partial shade.
This plant can often be found invading moist sites in forested areas, along watercourses, and in residential areas.
Propagation & Vectors of Spread
Periwinkle’s main vector of spread is the horticulture trade, as it is widely sold in garden centres and nurseries as a shade-loving groundcover. Moreover, improper disposal by gardeners can aid its spread.
Periwinkle also spreads by stems rooting at the nodes, as well as stolons. It can also be dispersed in water.
Ecological and Health Impacts
- Crowds out and discourages the growth of native plants by forming extensive mats along the forest floor.
- Can lead to erosion when it grows on riverbanks as it outcompetes native, deeper-rooted plants.
- Periwinkle is allelopathic: it can inhibit the germination and seedling growth in plants of other species which may add to its competitive advantage.
- Can negatively impact animals utilizing riparian corridors by reducing the amount of forage available on riverbanks.
- Toxic to humans and animals
What Can I Do?
Small Periwinkle is currently found throughout the Sea to Sky Corridor, so the best approach to limiting further spread is PREVENTION.
Learn to identify Small Periwinkle: use the images presented in this profile page to learn how to identify this plant.
What to do if you spot it: You can report any Periwinkle sighting by clicking here.
- Regularly monitor properties for infestations.
- Avoid planting Periwinkle
- Ensure soil and gravel are uncontaminated before transport
- Minimize soil disturbances and use seed mixes, or other non-invasive ground cover plants to re-vegetate exposed soil and resist invasion.
- Ensure plants (particularly flowering heads or root fragments) are bagged or covered to prevent spread during transport to designated disposal sites (e.g. landfill).
- Don’t unload, park, or store equipment or vehicles in infested areas; remove plant material from any equipment, vehicles, or clothing used in such areas, and wash equipment and vehicles before leaving infested areas.
- DO NOT COMPOST!
- Hand-pull periwinkle repeatedly as it appears; persistence is key.
- Try to remove all of the plant and its roots, and dispose of the plant material appropriately.
- Apply mulch to bare soil, or re-plant with non-invasive species after removal.
- ‘Matting’ small infestations after they have been pulled for 4-6 months may also be useful.
- Foliar application of glyphosate to growing plants (late summer – early fall) can be effective, especially as a follow-up to mechanical methods.
- Other herbicides including triclopyr (applied in spring) and imazapyr (applied in late summer to early fall) can also be effective.
- We recommend that any herbicide application is carried out by a person holding a valid BC Pesticide Applicator Certificate. Before selecting and applying herbicides, you must review and follow herbicide labels and application rates; municipal, regional, provincial and federal laws and regulations; species-specific treatment recommendations, and site-specific goals and objectives.
There currently are no bio-control agents for this plant.
- California Invasive Plant Council, Vinca major, https://www.cal-ipc.org/plants/profile/vinca-major-profile
- Central Kootenay Invasive Species Society, Periwinkle, https://ckiss.ca/species/periwinkle/
- Coastal Invasive Species Committee, Periwinkle Species, https://www.coastalisc.com/periwinkle-species/
- Evergreen, Invasive Plant Profile: Common Periwinkle, https://www.evergreen.ca/downloads/pdfs/Invasive-Plant-Profile-Periwinkle.pdf
- Global Invasive Species Database, Vinca major, http://www.iucngisd.org/gisd/pdf.php?sc=487
- Invasive Species Compendium, Vinca minor, https://www.cabi.org/isc/datasheet/56403
- Invasive Species Council of BC, Common Periwinkle, https://bcinvasives.ca/invasives/common-periwinkle/
- Invasive Species Council of BC, Common Periwinkle TIPS Factsheet, https://bcinvasives.ca/wp-content/uploads/2021/01/Periwinkle.pdf
- NatureGate, Lesser Periwinkle, http://www.luontoportti.com/suomi/en/kukkakasvit/lesser-periwinkle
- Washington State Noxious Weed Control Board, Periwinkle, https://www.nwcb.wa.gov/weeds/periwinkle
- Whatcom County Noxious Weeds Control Board, Periwinkle, https://www.whatcomcounty.us/DocumentCenter/View/27176/Periwinkle