Vinca minor

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Vinca minor
Scientific classification Edit this classification
Kingdom: Plantae
Clade: Tracheophytes
Clade: Angiosperms
Clade: Eudicots
Clade: Asterids
Order: Gentianales
Family: Apocynaceae
Genus: Vinca
V. minor
Binomial name
Vinca minor

Vinca minor (common names lesser periwinkle[1] or dwarf periwinkle) is a species of flowering plant in the dogbane family, native to central and southern Europe, from Portugal and France north to the Netherlands and the Baltic States, east to the Caucasus, and also southwestern Asia in Turkey. Other vernacular names used in cultivation include small periwinkle, common periwinkle, and sometimes in the United States, myrtle or creeping myrtle.[2]

Leaf margins for comparison; Vinca minor above, Vinca major below; note hairless margin of V. minor, hairy margin of V. major. Scale in mm.


Vinca minor is a trailing subshrub, spreading along the ground and rooting along the stems to form large clonal colonies and occasionally scrambling up to 40 centimetres (16 in) high but never twining or climbing. The leaves are evergreen, opposite, 2–4.5 centimetres (0.79–1.77 in) long and 1–2.5 centimetres (0.39–0.98 in) broad, glossy dark green with a leathery texture and an entire margin.

The flowers are solitary in the leaf axils and are produced mainly from early spring to mid summer but with a few flowers still produced into the autumn; they are violet-purple (pale purple or white in some cultivated selections), 2–3 centimetres (0.79–1.18 in) diameter, with a five-lobed corolla. The fruit is a pair of follicles 2.5 centimetres (0.98 in) long, containing numerous seeds.

The closely related species Vinca major is similar, but larger in all parts, and also has relatively broader leaves with a hairy margin.


Ground cover with dense growth
Vinca minor in castle ruins

The species is commonly grown as a groundcover in temperate gardens for its evergreen foliage, spring and summer flowers, ease of culture, and dense habit that smothers most weeds. It was once commonly planted in cemeteries in parts of the Southern United States and naturalized periwinkle may indicate the presence of graves whose other markers have disappeared.[3]

The species has few pests or diseases outside its native range and is widely naturalised and classified as an invasive species in parts of North America. Invasion can be restricted by removal of rooting stems in spring.[4] Once established, it is difficult to eradicate, as its waxy leaves shed most water-based herbicide sprays. However, spraying with glyphosate easily kills the plant in 2-3 weeks. Removal involves cutting, followed by immediate application of concentrated glyphosate or triclopyr to the cut stems. Repeated chemical treatments may be necessary, along with digging up the roots where feasible.[5]


Cv. ‘Argenteovariegata’

There are numerous cultivars, with different flower colours and variegated foliage. Many have a less vigorous habit than the species, and are therefore more suitable for smaller gardens. The following cultivars have gained the Royal Horticultural Society's Award of Garden Merit:-[6]

  • 'Argenteovariegata'[7] (leaves have creamy white margins)
  • 'Atropurpurea'[8] (burgundy-purple flowers)
  • 'Azurea Flore Pleno'[9] (double blue flowers)
  • 'Bowles’s Variety’[10] (violet-blue flowers: also known as ‘Bowles’s Blue’ and ‘La Grave’)
  • 'Ralph Shugert'[11]

Medicinal use: chemical constituents[edit]

Vinca minor contains more than 50 alkaloids, including vincamine.[12] Other alkaloids include reserpine, rescinnamine, akuammicine, majdine, vinerine, ervine, vineridine, tombozine, vincamajine, vincanine, vincanidine,[13] vinburnine, apovincamine, vincaminol, desoxyvincaminol,[14] vincorine[15] and perivincine.[16]

Vinpocetine (brand names: Cavinton, Intelectol; chemical name: ethyl apovincaminate) is a semisynthetic derivative alkaloid of vincamine.


The colour name periwinkle is derived from the flower.


  1. ^ BSBI List 2007 (xls). Botanical Society of Britain and Ireland. Archived from the original (xls) on 2015-06-26. Retrieved 2014-10-17.
  2. ^ Foster, Rachel. "So Many Myrtles — Unraveling the confusion and contradiction". Archived from the original on April 12, 2008. Retrieved December 2, 2019.
  3. ^ Hobbs, Holly (2012-11-20). "Preservation group discovers Fairfax County's past as it cleans up graves". Washington Post.
  4. ^ USDA, NRCS (n.d.). "Vinca minor". The PLANTS Database ( Greensboro, North Carolina: National Plant Data Team. Retrieved August 26, 2006.
  5. ^ "Vines". NPS. November 11, 2010. Retrieved June 29, 2013.
  6. ^ "AGM Plants - Ornamental" (PDF). Royal Horticultural Society. July 2017. p. 107. Retrieved 18 February 2019.
  7. ^ "Vinca minor Argenteovariegata". RHS. Retrieved 17 March 2021.
  8. ^ "Vinca minor Atropurpurea". RHS. Retrieved 17 March 2021.
  9. ^ "Vinca minor 'Azurea Flore Pleno'". RHS. Retrieved 17 March 2021.
  10. ^ "Vinca minor 'Bowles's Variety'". RHS. Retrieved 19 February 2019.
  11. ^ "Vinca minor 'Ralph Shugert'". RHS. Retrieved 5 March 2021.
  12. ^ Khanavi, M.; Pourmoslemi, S.; Farahanikia, B.; Hadjiakhoondi, A.; Ostad, S. N. (2010). "Cytotoxicity ofVinca minor". Pharmaceutical Biology. 48 (1): 96–100. doi:10.3109/13880200903046187. PMID 20645762. S2CID 42993549.
  13. ^ Tulyaganov, T. S.; Nigmatullaev, A. M. (2000). "Alkaloids of Vinca minor". Chemistry of Natural Compounds. 36 (5): 540. doi:10.1023/A:1002820414086. S2CID 45597272.
  14. ^ Smeyers, Y. G.; Smeyers, N. J.; Randez, J. J.; Hernandez-Laguna, A.; Galvez-Ruano, E. (1991). "A structural and pharmacological study of alkaloids of Vinca Minor". Molecular Engineering. 1 (2): 153. doi:10.1007/BF00420051. S2CID 93210480.
  15. ^ Yasui, Y.; Kinugawa, T.; Takemoto, Y. (2009). "Synthetic studies on vincorine: Access to the 3a,8a-dialkyl-1,2,3,3a,8,8a-hexahydropyrrolo\2,3-b]indole skeleton". Chemical Communications (28): 4275–7. doi:10.1039/b907210a. PMID 19585045.
  16. ^ Farnsworth, N. R.; Draus, F. J.; Sager, R. W.; Bianculli, J. A. (2006). "Studies on Vinca major L. (Apocynaceae) I. Isolation of perivincine". Journal of the American Pharmaceutical Association. 49 (9): 589. doi:10.1002/jps.3030490908.

Further reading[edit]

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