Members of Apocynaceae are perennial plants with simple, opposite leaves. The 5 lobed corolla forms a substantial tube, with 5 alternating stamens attached to the tube. The 5 lobed calyx is often separated almost to the base, and the single-style pistil is usally free or almost free from the calyx. As the 2 segment fruit develops, it splits apart to form separte pods that open after drying. Some species have a milky sap that can be toxic.
Although probably best known in our area by the european garden ground Vinca major - (Periwinkle) and the Oleander bush, Apocynaceae includes two species native to the Bay Area. Bitter Dogbane (Apocynum androsaemifolium.) and Indian Hemp (Apocynum cannabinum.) are found in some of the Bay Area counties. The fibrous stems of A. cannabinum. were used by Native Americans for making ropes and cords. Neither species has been found on Montara Mountain at this time.
Vinca major - (Periwinkle) is found throughout the lower elevations along trails, especially on the Pacifica side of the mountain.
Flowers: Light-to-dark blue-violet, 5 petals in pinwheel shape.
Leaves: Glossy, dark green, ovoid.
Fruit/Seeds: Small pods in pairs.
Location: Most trails and creek at lower elevations - prefers shaded areas.
Status: Alien Invasive - Common
Further description & Comment: Vinca is a growing invasive problem throughout the San Mateo Coast, often infesting creek beds, riparian corridors and forested areas along with Cape Ivy (Senecio mikaniodes.). Eradication is difficult, as Periwinkle flowers and seeds continuously all year long. Some success has been reported with tarping clumps of it with black plastic for 6 to 12 months. Effective, but not awfully attractive in a park. For the most part, we just keep yanking it out as we find it.
Vinca major. apparently has strong medicinal properties - Michael Moore (see links) describes it as " ... an incredibly complex alkaloid plant.", and describes uses for migrainelike headaches, bleeding hemorroids, and uterine bleeding. Apparently a powerful temporary treatment for acute short-term need, but dangerous if used regularly.
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