A modern reference to temperate woody plants, including updated content from this site and much new material, can be found at Trees and Shrubs Online.

Vinca major L.

Greater Periwinkle

Modern name

Vinca major L.

An evergreen shrub whose barren stems are long and trailing, its flowering ones erect and 1 to 2 ft high, glabrous except for a few dark bristles at the joints. Leaves opposite, ovate, 1 to 3 in. long, half to two-thirds as wide, pointed, dark green, glossy on both surfaces, glabrous, but edged with minute hairs; stalk 13 to 12 in. long. Flowers bright blue, solitary in the leaf-axils on a slender stalk 1 to 2 in. long; corolla 112 in. across, the base a funnel-shaped tube spreading at the mouth into five deep, broadly obovate lobes; calyx-lobes five, narrowly linear, nearly 12 in. long, with hairs on the margin. Fruits glabrous, awl-shaped, long-pointed, 112 to 2 in. long.

Native of the western and central Mediterranean region, with a subspecies ranging as far east as the Caucasus; long cultivated and seemingly wild in many localities outside its natural range, including Britain. It is useful for growing in semi-shaded positions where it makes pleasant ground cover, but not flowering so well there as in the full sun. The first flowers appear in May and continue until September. It should be trimmed over annually in spring, cutting away the old growths. Distinct from V. minor in its large, broad-based, often heart-shaped leaves, and from V. difformis in its ciliate leaves and calyx-lobes.

cv. ‘Oxyloba’. – Corolla segments narrower and more acute than normal, deep violet-blue. Leaves oblong-lanceolate, conspicuously hairy at the edge. Originally described in 1930 from a plant cultivated by E. A. Bowles at Myddelton House, Enfield. Possibly a geographical variant, since it is matched by plants growing wild in southern Italy (Stearn, Gard. Chron., Vol. 88 (1930), p. 156, and in Vinca Alkaloids, pp. 85-6). It has been confused with subsp. hirsuta.

subsp. hirsuta (Boiss.) Stearn V. major var. hirsuta Boiss.; V. pubescens D’Urville – Hairs on the petiole, leaf-margin and calyx longer and denser than in the typical state. Native of the western Caucasus and northern Asia Minor.

cv. ‘Reticulata’. – Young leaves golden-veined, later normally coloured and dark green. Flowers with broad segments, rich blue.

cv. ‘Variegata’ (‘Elegantissima’). – Leaves boldly margined with creamy white, the margination yellower on the young foliage. Flowers rich lavender-blue.

From the Supplement (Vol. V)

† cv. ‘Aureomaculata. – Leaves with a central blotch of greenish yellow. A.M.T.

† cv. ‘Jason Hill. – Flowers deep violet-blue. Named by Dr W. T. Stearn after the late Dr F. A. Hampton, whose pen-name was ‘Jason Hill’ (Barnes, op. cit.).

cv. ‘Variegata. – This received an Award of Merit in the trials.



Other species in the genus