Blue periwinkle (Vinca major)

Also known as: greater periwinkle

Profile

Impact

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.

Distribution

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. 

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.

Description

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. 

Habitat

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

Contact your local council weeds officer for control advice for Blue periwinkle (Vinca major).

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Legal requirements

The content provided here is for information purposes only and is taken from the Noxious Weeds Act 1993.

Area Class Legal requirements
Kempsey 3 Regionally Controlled Weed
The plant must be fully and continuously suppressed and destroyed
Lord Howe Island 3 Regionally Controlled Weed
The plant must be fully and continuously suppressed and destroyed
Mid-Coast 3 Regionally Controlled Weed
The plant must be fully and continuously suppressed and destroyed
Port Macquarie-Hastings 3 Regionally Controlled Weed
The plant must be fully and continuously suppressed and destroyed
Tamworth Regional 3 Regionally Controlled Weed
The plant must be fully and continuously suppressed and destroyed
Upper Hunter County Council 3 Regionally Controlled Weed
The plant must be fully and continuously suppressed and destroyed

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

Reviewed 2014