Catharanthus roseus

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Madagascar rosy periwinkle
File:Catharanthus roseus24 08 2012 (1).JPG
Scientific classification
Kingdom: Plantae
(unranked): Angiosperms
(unranked): Eudicots
(unranked): Asterids
Order: Gentianales
Family: Apocynaceae
Genus: Catharanthus
Species: C. roseus
Binomial name
Catharanthus roseus
(L.) G.Don
  • Vinca rosea (basionym)
  • Ammocallis rosea
  • Lochnera rosea

Catharanthus roseus, commonly known as the Madagascar rosy periwinkle, is a species of Catharanthus native and endemic to Madagascar. Other English names occasionally used include Cape periwinkle, rose periwinkle, rosy periwinkle, and "old-maid".[1][2]


Two varieties are recognized

  • Catharanthus roseus var. roseus
Synonymy for this variety
Catharanthus roseus var. angustus Steenis ex Bakhuizen f.[3]
Catharanthus roseus var. albus G.Don [4]
Catharanthus roseus var. occellatus G.Don[5]
Catharanthus roseus var. nanusMarkgr.[6]
Lochnera rosea f. alba (G.Don) Woodson[7]
Lochnera rosea var. ocellata (G.Don) Woodson
  • Catharanthus roseus var. angustus (Steenis) Bakh. f.[8]
Synonymy for this variety
Catharanthus roseus var. nanus Markgr.[9]
Lochnera rosea var. angusta Steenis [10]


It is an evergreen subshrub or herbaceous plant growing 1 m tall. The leaves are oval to oblong, 2.5–9 cm long and 1–3.5 cm broad, glossy green, hairless, with a pale midrib and a short petiole 1–1.8 cm long; they are arranged in opposite pairs. The flowers are white to dark pink with a darker red centre, with a basal tube 2.5–3 cm long and a corolla 2–5 cm diameter with five petal-like lobes. The fruit is a pair of follicles 2–4 cm long and 3 mm broad.[11][12][13][14]

In the wild, it is an endangered plant; the main cause of decline is habitat destruction by slash and burn agriculture.[15] It is also however widely cultivated and is naturalised in subtropical and tropical areas of the world.[11]

File:Apocynaceae - Catharanthus roseus.JPG
Pale Pink with Red Centre Cultivar

Cultivation and uses

The species has long been cultivated for herbal medicine and as an ornamental plant. In Ayurveda (Indian traditional medicine) the extracts of its roots and shoots, though poisonous, is used against several diseases.[citation needed] In traditional Chinese medicine, extracts from it have been used against numerous diseases, including diabetes, malaria, and Hodgkin's lymphoma.[12] The substances vinblastine and vincristine extracted from the plant are used in the treatment of leukemia [15] and Hodgkin's lymphoma.

This conflict between historical indigenous use, and recent patents on C.roseus-derived drugs by western pharmaceutical companies, without compensation, has led to accusations of biopiracy.[16]

It can be dangerous if consumed orally.[15] It can be extremely toxic, and is cited (under its synonym Vinca rosea) in Louisiana State Act 159.

As an ornamental plant, it is appreciated for its hardiness in dry and nutritionally deficient conditions, popular in subtropical gardens where temperatures never fall below 5 °C to 7 °C, and as a warm-season bedding plant in temperate gardens. It is noted for its long flowering period, throughout the year in tropical conditions, and from spring to late autumn, in warm temperate climates. Full sun and well-drained soil are preferred. Numerous cultivars have been selected, for variation in flower colour (white, mauve, peach, scarlet and reddish-orange), and also for tolerance of cooler growing conditions in temperate regions. Notable cultivars include 'Albus' (white flowers), 'Grape Cooler' (rose-pink; cool-tolerant), the Ocellatus Group (various colours), and 'Peppermint Cooler' (white with a red centre; cool-tolerant).[11]

C. roseus is used in plant pathology as an experimental host for phytoplasmas.[17] This is because it is easy to infect with a large majority of phytoplasmas, and also often has very distinctive symptoms such as phyllody and significantly reduced leaf size.[18]


Rosinidin is an anthocyanidin pigment found in the flowers of C. roseus.[19]

Other names

C. roseus is known as "Noyon Tora"(Assamese:নয়নতৰা)in Assamese,"noyontara" (Bengali: নয়নতারা) in Bengali, sadaphuli (Marathi: सदाफुली) in Marathi, boa-noite ("good night") and maria-sem-vergonha ("shameless maria", name shared with Impatiens and Thunbergia alata) in Portuguese (American), vinca-de-madagáscar, vinca-de-gato ("cats' vinca"), vinca-branca (white vinca), vinca or boa-noite in Portuguese (European), vinca del Cabo, vinca rosa ("pink vinca") or vinca rosada ("roseous vinca") in Spanish, putica ("little whore") in Venezuela and nityhakalyani in Tamil (Tamil: நித்யகல்யாணி பூ).



  1. Flora of Madagascar: Catharanthus roseus
  2. Germplasm Resources Information Network: Catharanthus roseus
  3. Steenis ex Bakhuizen f., Blumea 6: 384. 1950.
  4. G.Don, Gen. Hist. 4(1): 95. 1837.
  5. G.Don Gen. Hist. 4(1): 95. 1837.
  6. Markgr., Adansonia, ser. 2. 12: 222. 1972.
  7. Woodson, N. Amer. Fl. 29: 124. 1938.
  8. Bakh. f.Blumea 6 (2): 384. 1950.
  9. Markgr. Adansonia, ser. 2. 12: 222. 1972.
  10. Steenis Trop. Nat. 25: 18. 1936.
  11. 11.0 11.1 11.2 Huxley, A., ed. (1992). New RHS Dictionary of Gardening. Macmillan ISBN 0-333-47494-5.
  12. 12.0 12.1 Flora of China: Catharanthus roseus
  13. College of Micronesia: Catharanthus roseus
  14. Jepson Flora: Catharanthus roseus
  15. 15.0 15.1 15.2 DrugDigest: Catharanthus roseus
  16. Karasov, C. (2001). "Who Reaps the Benefits of Biodiversity?". Environmental Health Perspectives (Environmental Health Perspectives, Vol. 109, No. 12) 109 (12): A582–A587. JSTOR 3454734. PMC 1240518. PMID 11748021. doi:10.2307/3454734. 
  17. C. Marcone, A. Ragozzino, E. Seemuller (1997). "Dodder transmission of alder yellows phytoplasma to the experimental host Catharanthus roseus (periwinkle)". Forest Pathology 27 (6): 347–350. doi:10.1111/j.1439-0329.1997.tb01449.x. 
  18. Chung-Jan Chang (August 12, 1997, Rochester, NY). "Pathogenicity of Aster Yellows Phytoplasma and Spiroplasma citri on Periwinkle". 89th Annual Meeting of the American Phytopathological Society. 
  19. Toki K, Saito N, Irie Y, Tatsuzawa F, Shigihara A, Honda T (March 2008). "7-O-Methylated anthocyanidin glycosides from Catharanthus roseus". Phytochemistry 69 (5): 1215–9. PMID 18164044. doi:10.1016/j.phytochem.2007.11.005. 

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