Vinca minor

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Vinca minor
File:Vinca minor Nashvillle.jpg
Scientific classification
Kingdom: Plantae
(unranked): Angiosperms
(unranked): Eudicots
(unranked): Asterids
Order: Gentianales
Family: Apocynaceae
Genus: Vinca
Species: V. minor
Binomial name
Vinca minor

Vinca minor (common names lesser periwinkle or dwarf periwinkle) is a species of flowering plant 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,[1] although this is misleading, as the name myrtle normally refers to the Myrtus species.

File:Vinca major-minor margins.jpg
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, viny 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.


File:Vinca minor patch MN 2007.JPG
Ground cover with dense growth

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. 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.[2] Once established, it is difficult to eradicate, as its waxy leaves shed most water-based herbicide sprays. Removal involves cutting, followed by immediate application of concentrated glyphosphate or triclopyr to the cut stems. Repeated chemical treatments may be necessary, along with digging up the roots where feasible.[3]


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:-

  • 'Argenteovariegata'[4] (leaves have creamy white margins)
  • 'Atropurpurea'[5] (purple flowers)
  • 'Azurea Flore Pleno'[6] (double blue flowers)
  • 'La Grave'[7] (violet flowers)

Chemical constituents

Vinca minor contains more than 50 alkaloids,[8] and vincamine is the molecule responsible for Vinca's nootropic activity.[citation needed] Other alkaloids include reserpine, reserpinine, akuammicine, majdine, vinerine, ervine, vineridine, tombozine, vincamajine, vincanine, vincanidine,[9] vincamone, apovincamine, vincaminol, desoxyvincaminol,[10] vincorine[11] and perivincine.[12]

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


The color name periwinkle is derived from the flower.


  1. Foster, Rachel. "So Many Myrtles — Unraveling the confusion and contradiction". Retrieved August 19, 2012. 
  2. "Vinca minor L. Common periwinkle". USDA. Plants Profile. Retrieved August 26, 2006. 
  3. "Vines". NPS. November 11, 2010. Retrieved June 29, 2013. 
  4. "Vinca minor Argenteovariegata". RHS. Retrieved June 29, 2013. 
  5. "Vinca minor Atropurpurea". RHS. Retrieved June 29, 2013. 
  6. "Vinca minor Azurea Flore Pleno". RHS. Retrieved June 29, 2013. 
  7. "Vinca minor La Grave". RHS. Retrieved June 29, 2013. 
  8. Khanavi, M.; Pourmoslemi, S.; Farahanikia, B.; Hadjiakhoondi, A.; Ostad, S. N. (2010). "Cytotoxicity ofVinca minor". Pharmaceutical Biology 48 (1): 96–100. PMID 20645762. doi:10.3109/13880200903046187.  edit
  9. Tulyaganov, T. S.; Nigmatullaev, A. M. (2000). Chemistry of Natural Compounds 36 (5): 540. doi:10.1023/A:1002820414086.  edit
  10. 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.  edit
  11. 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. doi:10.1039/b907210a.  edit
  12. 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.  edit

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