Blue periwinkle (Vinca major)

Also known as: greater periwinkle

Blue periwinkle is a trailing plant that forms dense mats. It is a significant issue for biodiversity landscapes and river health.

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How does this weed affect you?

Blue periwinkle’s broad-leaved runners form a dense mat, shading out native plants and competing for moisture and nutrients. Its growth is particularly vigorous in riparian and other moist habitats.

It competes with native plants for moisture, light, nutrients and recruitment niches. Its growth is particularly vigorous in riparian and other moist habitats. Once established, periwinkle’s rampant growth is very difficult to control, especially in bushland.

Where is it found?

Blue periwinkle is native to the Mediterranean region. It occurs in southern Australia and into southeastern Queensland in regions with winter, summer or year-round rainfall, but its distribution does not extend into the semi-arid or alpine zones or the tropics. Extensive infestations have generally been recorded in regions receiving more than 600 mm annual rainfall. In drier areas it occurs along watercourses and drainage ditches and there are isolated records associated with plantings such as old or existing gardens. 

How does it spread?

Blue periwinkle expands by means of creeping stems that take root at the nodes and tips. New infestations can establish from plant fragments when broken off and transported by dumping of garden waste, soil movement or floods. It spreads from gardens, roadsides, nature strips, firebreaks, fencelines and neglected rubbish dumps into the bush and along waterways. Periwinkle is commonly available as a garden plant, readily propagated from cuttings and popular as a ground cover. It tends to overrun garden beds and the excess runners are thrown out in garden waste. Vegetative reproduction is most common, but in some situations periwinkle may produce viable seed. In Australia this occurs in riparian rainforest in East Gippsland where numerous seedlings may emerge after mats have been removed.

What does it look like?

Blue periwinkle is a trailing herb, it has a woody crown bearing runners up to 1 m long. Leaves are opposite, the upper surface is glossy and there are generally very short hairs along the leaf margins (edges).

Flowers are on short stems, they are large, 2-5 cm across and blue-purple or sometimes white, with 5 petals.

The root system is hardy and fibrous, forming a mat 15–30 cm deep in the soil. Most populations only reproduce vegetatively, but some produce viable seeds. Fruits (follicles) are 35–40 mm long, tapered at both ends and usually paired. They contain 1–10 textured seeds, 7–8 mm long. 

What type of environment does it grow in?

Blue periwinkle is widespread in moist shady sites but will also grow in full sun where there is adequate moisture. Its growth is particularly vigorous in riparian and other moist habitats.

Acknowledgements

Dr F. Ede, Victorian DPI; Dr N. Ainsworth, Victorian DPI. 

References

CRC for Australian Weed Management (2008). Weed Management Guide: Periwinkle (Vinca major). CRC for Australian Weed Management, Adelaide, South Australia. 

Australian National Botanic Gardens (2014). Vinca major, in PlantNET - The Plant Information Network System of The Royal Botanic Gardens and Domain Trust, Sydney, Australia. Available at http://plantnet.rbgsyd.nsw.gov.au

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Control

Established infestations of blue periwinkle in native vegetation are difficult to remove because:

  • they have a dense network of runners above ground that can become entwined with native understorey and a tough, matted root system
  • plants reproduce vegetatively from root and stem fragments and crowns
  • uptake of herbicide by mature leaves may be reduced due to the waxy cuticle
  • they often grow in fragile riparian environments.
  • plants are tolerant of shade and may thrive under a native tree canopy. 

In selecting the most suitable control techniques it is essential to minimise adverse impacts on native vegetation and waterways and to encourage subsequent recovery. Physical and chemical control measures may be combined to remove patches of periwinkle effectively. All treatment needs to be followed up and may need to be repeated. There are no known biological control agents for this species in Australia. 

Prevent blue periwinkle spreading

Isolated plants or patches of periwinkle in or near bushland need to be identified and removed before they spread. New infestations of periwinkle could result from continued propagation and planting as well as accidental dispersal. Programs to increase community awareness about weedy garden plants such as periwinkle are needed to target gardeners, landscapers and nursery suppliers. In public and private gardens, it is preferable to replace periwinkle with alternative non-weedy ground covers. Appropriate facilities for public disposal of garden waste and weedy material are needed. Established patches occurring in slashed areas need to be identified and weed hygiene practised to prevent propagules being carried to new locations.

Reduce established blue periwinkle infestations

At the local or property scale a long­ term management program can reduce periwinkle’s harmful effects; help to contain its spread; and encourage native vegetation to recover. Both native plants and weeds may regenerate after primary treatment. A planned, strategic approach is essential to ensure that the patch is replaced by native plant cover rather than periwinkle or other weeds.

Herbicide options

WARNING - ALWAYS READ THE LABEL
Users of agricultural or veterinary chemical products must always read the label and any permit, before using the product, and strictly comply with the directions on the label and the conditions of any permit. Users are not absolved from compliance with the directions on the label or the conditions of the permit by reason of any statement made or not made in this information. To view permits or product labels go to the Australian Pesticides and Veterinary Medicines Authority website www.apvma.gov.au

See Using herbicides for more information.


PERMIT 9907 Expires 31/03/2020
Fluroxypyr 200 g/L (Starane™)
Rate: 500 mL to 1 L per 100 L water
Comments: Spot spray
Withholding period: 7 days.
Herbicide group: I, Disruptors of plant cell growth (synthetic auxins)
Resistance risk: Moderate


PERMIT 9907 Expires 31/03/2020
Fluroxypyr 200 g/L (Starane™)
Rate: 35 mL per L diesel/kerosene
Comments: Basal bark
Withholding period: 7 days.
Herbicide group: I, Disruptors of plant cell growth (synthetic auxins)
Resistance risk: Moderate


PERMIT 9907 Expires 31/03/2020
Fluroxypyr 333 g/L (Starane™ Advanced)
Rate: 300 to 600 mL per 100 L water
Comments: Spot spray
Withholding period: 7 days.
Herbicide group: I, Disruptors of plant cell growth (synthetic auxins)
Resistance risk: Moderate


PERMIT 9907 Expires 31/03/2020
Fluroxypyr 333 g/L (Starane™ Advanced)
Rate: 21 mL per L diesel/kerosene
Comments: Basal bark
Withholding period: 7 days.
Herbicide group: I, Disruptors of plant cell growth (synthetic auxins)
Resistance risk: Moderate


PERMIT 9907 Expires 31/03/2020
Glyphosate 360 g/L (Roundup®)
Rate: One part product to 50 parts water
Comments: Spot spray
Withholding period: Nil.
Herbicide group: M, Inhibitors of EPSP synthase
Resistance risk: Moderate


PERMIT 9907 Expires 31/03/2020
Glyphosate 360 g/L (Roundup®)
Rate: One part product to 1.5 parts water
Comments: Cut, scrape and paint
Withholding period: Nil.
Herbicide group: M, Inhibitors of EPSP synthase
Resistance risk: Moderate


PERMIT 9907 Expires 31/03/2020
Glyphosate 360 g/L (Roundup®)
Rate: One part product to 9 parts water
Comments: Splatter gun
Withholding period: Nil.
Herbicide group: M, Inhibitors of EPSP synthase
Resistance risk: Moderate


PERMIT 9907 Expires 31/03/2020
Glyphosate 360 g/L (Roundup®)
Rate: One part product to 20 parts water
Comments: Wipe onto leaves
Withholding period: Nil.
Herbicide group: M, Inhibitors of EPSP synthase
Resistance risk: Moderate


PERMIT 9907 Expires 31/03/2020
Metsulfuron-methyl 600 g/kg (Brush-off®)
Rate: 10 - 20 g per 100 L water plus surfactant
Comments: Spot spray
Withholding period: Nil (recommended not to graze for 7 days before treatment and for 7 days after treatment to allow adequate chemical uptake in target weeds).
Herbicide group: B, Inhibitors of acetolactate synthase (ALS inhibitors)
Resistance risk: High


PERMIT 9907 Expires 31/03/2020
Metsulfuron-methyl 600 g/kg (Brush-off®)
Rate: 10 g per 1 L of water plus surfactant
Comments: Wipe onto leaves
Withholding period: Nil (recommended not to graze for 7 days before treatment and for 7 days after treatment to allow adequate chemical uptake in target weeds).
Herbicide group: B, Inhibitors of acetolactate synthase (ALS inhibitors)
Resistance risk: High


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Biosecurity duty

The content provided here is for information purposes only and is taken from the Biosecurity Act 2015 and its subordinate legislation, and the Regional Strategic Weed Management Plans (published by each Local Land Services region in NSW). It describes the state and regional priorities for weeds in New South Wales, Australia.

Area Duty
All of NSW General Biosecurity Duty
All plants are regulated with a general biosecurity duty to prevent, eliminate or minimise any biosecurity risk they may pose. Any person who deals with any plant, who knows (or ought to know) of any biosecurity risk, has a duty to ensure the risk is prevented, eliminated or minimised, so far as is reasonably practicable.

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For technical advice and assistance with identification please contact your local council weeds officer.
For further information call the NSW DPI Biosecurity Helpline on 1800 680 244 or send an email to weeds@dpi.nsw.gov.au

Reviewed 2018