Alien invasion coming to a paradise near you

Periwinkle in woods

So sweet in the garden, periwinkle can be so destructive in the woods. Note: No sign of wildflowers or ferns. Shot May 4th on the Bruce Peninsula southeast of Wiarton.

There’s a nasty threat of aliens taking over (and I don’t mean the already-panned Tom Cruise space thriller due out this June). I saw it first-hand and took the photo you see at left. It’s a rampant patch of periwinkle flourishing in the woods near Wiarton on the Bruce Peninsula. What this area should look like at this time of year is shown in the photo below it, taken last spring.

Just to give you some perspective, The Bruce is part of the Niagara Escarpment, which was designated a UNESCO World Biosphere Reserve in 1990. It’s also home to the Bruce Trail, Canada’s oldest and longest continuous footpath. Check it out this summer. Literally. As in hiking the trail, rather than Googling it.

Vinca minor, commonly known as periwinkle, is native to Europe, not Canada. So it’s officially an alien plant. And it’s really invasive–as in takes over. Yes, it’s really easy to grow (even in dry shade) and works wonders in a garden as a ground cover with glossy evergreen leaves and mauve flowers that bloom in spring. But it will also smother almost everything in its path.

The moral of this short story is that periwinkle is a handsome and handy plant to use in a garden if said garden is surrounded on all sides by acres of urban or suburban development.

Southern Ontario wilderness

A bit of Southern Ontario wilderness in the spring with wild flowers starting to pop up.

But if your garden is near a ravine, a greenbelt, a park or any kind of undeveloped area, please, please, please don’t grow periwinkle. This plant can easily jump from your garden to freedom In the wild and, once there, will suffocate the native flora.

Recently, Mark Cullen wrote an article for the Toronto Star about invasive plants. He did a great job covering this important topic and pointed out the new Grow Me Instead brochure, a guide specifically for Southern Ontario gardens. With it, you can identify invasive species and decide which plants to substitute. You’d be surprised at some of the plants on the Don’t Grow list. Spoiler alert: English Ivy is a no go, too.

But the native plant choices you can use as alternatives are so gorgeous, you’ll wonder why you didn’t plant them in the first place.



One thought on “Alien invasion coming to a paradise near you

  1. Pingback: Invasive species: Truce or consequences? | Ministry of the fence

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