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Catharanthus roseus (Madagascar Periwinkle) is a species of Catharanthus native and endemic to Madagascarmarker. Synonyms include Vinca rosea (the basionym), Ammocallis rosea, and Lochnera rosea; other English names occasionally used include Cape Periwinkle, Rose Periwinkle, Rosy Periwinkle, and "Old-maid".In India it is known as "Nithyakalyani".

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

It is an evergreen subshrub or herbaceous plant growing to 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.

Cultivation and uses

The species has long been cultivated for herbal medicine and as an ornamental plant.In traditional Chinese medicine, extracts from it have been used to treat numerous diseases, including diabetes, malaria, and Hodgkin's disease. The substances vinblastine and vincristine extracted from the plant are used in the treatment of leukemia.

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.

It can be dangerous if consumed orally. It can be hallucinogenic, 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).
C. roseus is used in plant pathology as an experimental host for phytoplasmas. 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.


Several chemical compounds can be found in Catharanthus roseus.




  1. Flora of Madagascar: Catharanthus roseus
  2. Germplasm Resources Information Network: Catharanthus roseus
  3. DrugDigest: Catharanthus roseus
  4. Flora of China: Catharanthus roseus
  5. College of Micronesia: Catharanthus roseus
  6. Huxley, A., ed. (1992). New RHS Dictionary of Gardening. Macmillan ISBN 0-333-47494-5.
  7. Jepson Flora: Catharanthus roseus
  8. 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.
  9. Chung-Jan Chang. Pathogenicity of Aster Yellows Phytoplasma and Spiroplasma citri on Periwinkle. Presented at the 89th Annual Meeting of The American Phytopathological Society August 12, 1997, Rochester, NY
  11. Southern Herbals Limited
  12. Characterization of the anthocyanins of Catharanthus roseus (L.) G. Don in vivo and in vitro by electrospray ionization ion trap mass spectrometry, Anna Piovan, Raffaella Filippini, Donata Favretto, 1998

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