Vinca minor (Periwinkle)
|Also known as:||Creeping Myrtle, Running Myrtle, Lesser Periwinkle|
|Life cycle:||perennial, perennial woody|
|Habitat:||part shade, shade, sun; moist to dry disturbed soil; woods, thickets, forest edges, bluffs, abandoned homesteads|
|Bloom season:||May - June|
|Plant height:||4 to 8 inches|
|Wetland Indicator Status:||none|
|MN county distribution (click map to enlarge):|
|National distribution (click map to enlarge):|
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Flowers are single in leaf axils along branching stems, trumpet-shaped, about 1 inch diameter with 5 spreading lobes, on a slender stalk that may be longer than the attending leaf. Flower color varies from blue to violet, sometimes white. The calyx cupping the flower has 5 narrow lobes shorter than the floral tube. Inside the tube are 5 stamens and a green style.
Leaves and stems:
Leaves are opposite, evergreen, leathery, lance-elliptic to egg-shaped, ½ to 2 inches long, up to 1 inch wide, toothless, hairless, blunt to pointed at the tip, and on a short stalk. New leaves may initially be bright green, the upper surface becoming shiny dark green, the lower more silvery. Stems are woody near the base, may reach 6 feet long but creep along the ground, rooting at the nodes and forming dense mats; flowering branches more erect but rarely exceed 8 inches tall.
A flower may produce a pair of slender bean-like pods ¾ to 1 inch long, each containing a few seeds, but fruit is rarely produced.
Periwinkle is a European introduction long touted in the nursery trade as a tough, fast-growing ground cover; there are a number of cultivars bred for flower color and/or variegated leaves. It can escape cultivation and is particularly problematic in woodlands, where it can form dense mats and crowd out native species; it is currently considered invasive in Wisconsin. One report from Indiana noted it covering acres of native forest forming a stand so dense it excluded nearly all other vegetation, including reproduction of the trees. It's only been recorded once in Minnesota, escaped from a cemetery planting in Rice County, but is likely under-reported here.
Periwinkle is recognized by its low-growing form with creeping stems; shiny, evergreen, opposite leaves; stalked flowers single in the leaf axils, typically blue to violet with 5 spreading lobes; fruit is a pair of bean-like pods but are rarely produced. The flowers resemble those of a Phlox, which have a terminal cluster of flowers; all of the native Phlox in Minnesota have erect stems, not creeping. The leathery, evergreen leaves vaguely resemble some low-growing members of the Ericaceae family, such as Wintergreen (Gaultheria procumbens) or Bearberry (Arctostaphylos uva-ursi), which have alternate leaves, clusters of small bell-shaped flowers, and typically abundant bright red, berry-like fruit.
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- Periwinkle plant, starting to run
- Periwinkle with Wild Ginger
- Periwinkle on its way to forming a dense mat
- Periwinkle naturalizing at a forest edge
- Periwinkle invading a woodland with Buckthorn
Photos by K. Chayka taken at Eloise Butler Wildflower Garden in Minneapolis, and in Missouri. Photos by Peter M. Dziuk taken at Eloise Butler and in private gardens in Anoka County.
Have you seen this plant in Minnesota, or have any other comments about it?
on: 2020-05-07 21:29:55
Patch of it frowning just off the horse trail.
on: 2020-05-15 04:53:46
I have a bunch of it. My Aunt planted it around '60. I did not know that it was invasive. I also have that bulb plant (Silla) I heard that is invasive too.
on: 2020-06-26 16:44:54
My property has a section of this that is slowly taking over. I want to remove this and put in a native ground cover that is low (less than 6-8") and can withstand shade and hot mid-day sun. 1) what is best way to get rid of a large amount? 2)what suggestions of native plants are recommended instead?
on: 2020-06-26 18:21:15
Julie, we aren't experts at controlling various weeds, so try asking Master Gardeners at UM Extension. We have learned that if you dig, any root fragments left in the soil can resprout, so you'll need to be tenacious about pulling new growth. For other info on gardening with native plants, check out Wild Ones, whose mission is to promote gardening with natives; there are several chapters in the Metro area.
on: 2021-05-20 17:29:44
The wooded area next to our house, on our neighbor's property, has a dense mat of periwinkle growing all over the ground. It creeps quickly over our retaining wall and I have to cut it back repeatedly throughout the year. I did not realize that it was officially invasive though. I will work from now on to keep it from spreading onto our woodland property. Thanks for all the great info on this site!
on: 2022-05-13 08:08:22
Small clusters of it growing between a previously landscaped area and an undisturbed wooded area.
on: 2022-05-13 16:13:40
Almost positive I've found it on the very edge of my neighbor's yard (close to ours) and it's creeping into the small stretch of wooded area that's behind the property. I've only seen it popping up this spring, I'm not sure how it got there...
on: 2022-05-15 06:56:41
It was planted as a ground cover in our back yard by the previous owners. It is certainly tenacious & I've had to be vigilant to control it's spreading beyond the area designated for it. Ss I learn more about gardening, I will begin removing it to make room for native plants..
on: 2022-05-26 12:21:08
Small patch must have been planted by previous owners. Creeping through a wooded area. Looking for native ground cover alternative.
on: 2022-05-26 16:14:08
Abby, the natives wild strawberry and violets both make great ground covers.
on: 2022-05-29 11:17:13
I've got a very large patch maybe 100x100'in a portion of my woods
on: 2023-03-17 12:18:55
This plant grows all over the forest floor near my last house. It escaped from my grandparents' garden decades ago. We have not yet started managing it, but hopefully we can begin eradicating it in the coming season.
on: 2023-04-17 10:31:35
I saw an approximately 400 square foot patch of this in a clearing in the forest at Birch Island Woods Conservation Area. The bright green color of its leaves caught my attention from far away since the surrounding vegetation was otherwise drab in color.
on: 2023-05-16 19:46:53
I have a small bit of it in my back yard, sad to know it's invasive!