The greater periwinkle. Picture: Nuala Madigan
When I hear the term ‘periwinkle’ I automatically presume it’s a type of edible sea snail. I was surprised this week when I came across a beautiful purple flower growing in hedgerow close to my home, a flower I was not familiar with, and assumed it was an escapee from a neighbouring garden.
To be sure, I photographed the plant and on my return home, using www.wildflowerofireland.net, I confirmed my first impressions were correct. This is not a native wildflower, it is indeed a garden escapee — however it is not listed as being a species of either high or medium concern on Ireland’s invasive species list (www.biodiversityireland.ie).
What connection does the plant have with periwinkles? Well, it’s only in name, as this week’s species is called greater periwinkle (fincín mór as Gaeilge).
You may find this flower not only growing in hedgerows in your local area, but also on waste ground and roadside verges where there are homes close by.
It was the bright, five-petalled purple and white flowers that caught my attention. The glossy oval green leaves of this plant are what made me consider it to be an introduced species, as, with the exception of holly and ivy, most other plants with glossy leaves are introduced — for example the beech tree.
It can grow to a height of 45cm and can spread with ease, as each time the stems of the plant touch the ground they have the ability to shoot new roots, in a similar manner as brambles do.
This flower blooms from March to May, so now is the ideal time to identify this species in your local area — however as the leaves are evergreen you can identify them all year.
This plant has its origins in the warmer climates of Southern Europe, but successfully grows in the milder Irish climate. Its flower colour and glossy leaves make it a lovely ornamental flower, however its ability to spread can lead to it taking over flower beds — so be warned!
If you would like help identifying or to learn more about a wildlife species contact me via e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.