|Vinca major leaves and flower|
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Vinca major, with the common names bigleaf periwinkle, large periwinkle, greater periwinkle and blue periwinkle, is a species of flowering plant in the family Apocynaceae, native to the western Mediterranean. Growing to 25 cm (10 in) tall and spreading indefinitely, it is an evergreen perennial, frequently used in cultivation as groundcover.
The genus name probably derives from the Latin word vincire, meaning bind, as the long creeping vines were used to prepare garlands. The species name major refers to the larger size in respect of the similar Vinca minor L.
The leaves are opposite, nearly orbicular at the base of the stems and lanceolate at the apex, 3–9 cm long and 2–6 cm broad, glossy dark green with a leathery texture and an entire but distinctly ciliate margin, and a hairy petiole 1–2 cm long.
The flowers are hermaphrodite, axillary and solitary, violet-purple, 3–5 cm diameter, with a five-lobed corolla. The calyx surrounding the base of the flower is 10–17 millimetres (0.39–0.67 in) long with hairy margins. The flowering period extends from early spring to autumn.
Distribution and habitat
This species is found in southern Europe and northern Africa, from Spain and southern France east to the western Balkans, and also in northeastern Turkey and the western Caucasus. These are also found in lower Himalayan ranges in Asia. It prefers moist undergrowth, woodlands, hedgerows and banks along the rivers at an altitude of 0–800 metres (0–2,625 ft) above sea level. It grows well in full sun and in deep shade.
There are two subspecies, with geographically separate ranges:
- Vinca major subsp. major - leaf petioles finely hairy, hairs short (Southern Europe)
- Vinca major subsp. hirsuta (Boiss.) Stearn (syn. V. pubescens d'Urv.) - leaf petioles densely hairy, hairs longer; petals much narrower (Caucasus, northeastern Turkey)
The closely related Vinca minor is similar but smaller, with narrower, hairless leaves.
Many cultivars are available, with differences in flowers, such as white to dark violet flowers, and different patterns and colors of variegated foliage. The cultivar 'Variegata' has gained the Royal Horticultural Society's Award of Garden Merit.
Leaves of Vinca major with ciliate margins and a hairy petiole
Invasive plant species
Vinca major is an invasive species in temperate parts of the United States, Australia, and New Zealand. It is especially a common noxious weed 'smothering' native plants and diversity in riparian area and oak woodland habitats of coastal California. It forms dense strands that envelop other plant life and can prevent saplings and shrubs from growing by blocking out the light. Periwinkle moves from place to place, with unintentional human help, in dumped garden waste or as plant fragments carried along in water.
- Pignatti S. - Flora d'Italia – Edagricole – 1982, Vol. II, pag. 348
- Flora Europaea: Vinca major distribution
- Blamey, M., & Grey-Wilson, C. (1989). Flora of Britain and Northern Europe. Hodder & Stoughton.
- Huxley, A., ed. (1992). New RHS Dictionary of Gardening 4: 664-665. Macmillan.
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