Catharanthus roseus

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Catharanthus roseus
Catharanthus roseus24 08 2012 (1).JPG
Scientific classification edit
Kingdom: Plantae
Clade: Tracheophytes
Clade: Angiosperms
Clade: Eudicots
Clade: Asterids
Order: Gentianales
Family: Apocynaceae
Genus: Catharanthus
C. roseus
Binomial name
Catharanthus roseus
  • Vinca rosea L.
  • Pervinca rosea (L.) Gaterau
  • Lochnera rosea (L.) Rchb. ex Spach
  • Ammocallis rosea (L.) Small
Pollen grain of Catharanthus roseus

(See also Synonyms section)

A white C. roseus flower

Catharanthus roseus, commonly known as bright eyes, Cape periwinkle, graveyard plant, Madagascar periwinkle, old maid, pink periwinkle, rose periwinkle,[2] is a species of flowering plant in the family Apocynaceae. It is native and endemic to Madagascar, but grown elsewhere as an ornamental and medicinal plant, a source of the drugs vincristine and vinblastine, used to treat cancer. It was formerly included in the genus Vinca as Vinca rosea.


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


Catharanthus roseus is an evergreen subshrub or herbaceous plant growing 1 m (39 in) tall. The leaves are oval to oblong, 2.5–9 cm (1.0–3.5 in) long and 1–3.5 cm (0.4–1.4 in) broad, glossy green, hairless, with a pale midrib and a short petiole 1–1.8 cm (0.4–0.7 in) 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 (1.0–1.2 in) long and a corolla 2–5 cm (0.8–2.0 in) diameter with five petal-like lobes. The fruit is a pair of follicles 2–4 cm (0.8–1.6 in) long and 3 mm (0.1 in) broad.[10][11][12][13]


Cape periwinkles are of two types - foliage periwinkle (which often grows wild on cliffs) and annual periwinkle (Catharanthus roseus).[14] In the wild, C. roseus 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 like Australia, Malaysia, India, Pakistan and Bangladesh.[10] It is so well adapted to growth in Australia, that it is listed as a noxious weed in Western Australia and the Australian Capital Territory,[16] and also in parts of eastern Queensland.[17]

Pale Pink with Red Centre Cultivar


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 5–7 °C (41–45 °F), 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).[10] In the USA it often remains identified as "Vinca" although botanists have shifted its identification and it often can be seen growing along roadsides in the south.

In the UK it has gained the Royal Horticultural Society’s Award of Garden Merit[18] (confirmed 2017).[19]


The species has long been cultivated for herbal medicine. In Ayurveda (Indian traditional medicine) the extracts of its roots and shoots, though poisonous, are used against several diseases. In traditional Chinese medicine, extracts from it have been used against numerous diseases, including diabetes, malaria, and Hodgkin's lymphoma.[11] Many of the vinca alkaloids were first isolated from Catharanthus roseus,[20] including vinblastine and vincristine used in the treatment of leukemia[15] and Hodgkin's lymphoma.[11]

A periwinkle shrub
Dark pink colour
Coming in different colours

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.[21]

C. roseus can be extremely toxic if consumed orally by humans, and is cited (under its synonym Vinca rosea) in the Louisiana State Act 159.

C. roseus is used in plant pathology as an experimental host for phytoplasmas.[22] 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.[23]


Vinblastine and vincristine , chemotherapy medications used to treat several types of cancers, are found in the plant[24][25][26][27] and are biosynthesised from the coupling of the alkaloids catharanthine and vindoline.[28] The newer semi-synthetic chemotherapeutic agent vinorelbine, used in the treatment of non-small-cell lung cancer,[26][29] can be prepared either from vindoline and catharanthine[26][30] or from the vinca alkaloid leurosine,[31] in both cases via anhydrovinblastine.[30] The insulin-stimulating vincoline has been isolated from the plant.[32][33]

Rosinidin is the pink anthocyanidin pigment found in the flowers of C. roseus.[34] Lochnericine is a major alkaloid in roots.[35]



  1. ^ "Catharanthus roseus". World Checklist of Selected Plant Families (WCSP). Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew. Retrieved 4 August 2019.
  2. ^ "Catharanthus roseus". Germplasm Resources Information Network (GRIN). Agricultural Research Service (ARS), United States Department of Agriculture (USDA). Retrieved 4 August 2019.
  3. ^ Steenis ex Bakhuizen f., Blumea 6: 384. 1950.
  4. ^ a b G.Don, Gen. Hist. 4(1): 95. 1837.
  5. ^ Markgr., Adansonia, ser. 2. 12: 222. 1972.
  6. ^ Woodson, N. Amer. Fl. 29: 124. 1938.
  7. ^ Bakh. f.Blumea 6 (2): 384. 1950.
  8. ^ Markgr. Adansonia, ser. 2. 12: 222. 1972.
  9. ^ Steenis Trop. Nat. 25: 18. 1936.
  10. ^ a b c Huxley, A., ed. (1992). New RHS Dictionary of Gardening. Macmillan ISBN 0-333-47494-5.
  11. ^ a b c Flora of China: Catharanthus roseus
  12. ^ College of Micronesia: Catharanthus roseus
  13. ^ Jepson Flora: Catharanthus roseus
  14. ^ "Growing Periwinkle". Gardening knowhow official website. Gardening knowhow. Retrieved 4 June 2018.
  15. ^ a b DrugDigest: Catharanthus roseus Archived 2007-09-27 at the Wayback Machine
  16. ^ "Catharanthus roseus". Orpheus Island Research Station – James Cook University. Retrieved 2 November 2015.[permanent dead link]
  17. ^ "Factsheet – Catharanthus roseus". Queensland Government. Retrieved 2 November 2015.
  18. ^ "RHS Plantfinder - Catharanthus roseus". Retrieved 12 January 2018.
  19. ^ "AGM Plants - Ornamental" (PDF). Royal Horticultural Society. July 2017. p. 16. Retrieved 24 January 2018.
  20. ^ van Der Heijden, Robert; Jacobs, Denise I.; Snoeijer, Wim; Hallard, Didier; Verpoorte, Robert (2004). "The Catharanthus alkaloids: Pharmacognosy and biotechnology". Current Medicinal Chemistry. 11 (5): 607–628. doi:10.2174/0929867043455846. PMID 15032608.
  21. ^ Karasov, Corliss (2001). "Who Reaps the Benefits of Biodiversity?". Environmental Health Perspectives. 109 (12): A582–A587. doi:10.2307/3454734. JSTOR 3454734. PMC 1240518. PMID 11748021.
  22. ^ Marcone, C.; Ragozzino, A.; Seemuller, E. (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.
  23. ^ Chang, Chung-Jan (1998). "Pathogenicity of Aster Yellows Phytoplasma and Spiroplasma citri on Periwinkle". Phytopathology. 88 (12): 1347–1350. doi:10.1094/PHYTO.1998.88.12.1347. PMID 18944838.
  24. ^ Gansäuer, Andreas; Justicia, José; Fan, Chun-An; Worgull, Dennis; Piestert, Frederik (2007). "Reductive C—C bond formation after epoxide opening via electron transfer". In Krische, Michael J. (ed.). Metal Catalyzed Reductive C—C Bond Formation: A Departure from Preformed Organometallic Reagents. Topics in Current Chemistry. 279. Springer Science & Business Media. pp. 25–52. doi:10.1007/128_2007_130. ISBN 978-3-540-72879-5.
  25. ^ Cooper, Raymond; Deakin, Jeffrey John (2016). "Africa's gift to the world". Botanical Miracles: Chemistry of Plants That Changed the World. CRC Press. pp. 46–51. ISBN 978-1-4987-0430-4.
  26. ^ a b c Keglevich, Péter; Hazai, Laszlo; Kalaus, György; Szántay, Csaba (2012). "Modifications on the basic skeletons of vinblastine and vincristine". Molecules. 17 (5): 5893–5914. doi:10.3390/molecules17055893. PMC 6268133. PMID 22609781.
  27. ^ Raviña, Enrique (2011). "Vinca alkaloids". The evolution of drug discovery: From traditional medicines to modern drugs. John Wiley & Sons. pp. 157–159. ISBN 978-3-527-32669-3.
  28. ^ Hirata, K.; Miyamoto, K.; Miura, Y. (1994). "Catharanthus roseus L. (Periwinkle): Production of Vindoline and Catharanthine in Multiple Shoot Cultures". In Bajaj, Y. P. S. (ed.). Biotechnology in Agriculture and Forestry 26. Medicinal and Aromatic Plants. VI. Springer-Verlag. pp. 46–55. ISBN 978-3-540-56391-4.
  29. ^ Faller, Bryan A.; Pandi, Trailokya N. (2011). "Safety and efficacy of vinorelbine in the treatment of non-small cell lung cancer". Clinical Medicine Insights: Oncology. 5: 131–144. doi:10.4137/CMO.S5074. PMC 3117629. PMID 21695100.
  30. ^ a b Ngo, Quoc Anh; Roussi, Fanny; Cormier, Anthony; Thoret, Sylviane; Knossow, Marcel; Guénard, Daniel; Guéritte, Françoise (2009). "Synthesis and biological evaluation of Vinca alkaloids and phomopsin hybrids". Journal of Medicinal Chemistry. 52 (1): 134–142. doi:10.1021/jm801064y. PMID 19072542.
  31. ^ Hardouin, Christophe; Doris, Eric; Rousseau, Bernard; Mioskowski, Charles (2002). "Concise synthesis of anhydrovinblastine from leurosine". Organic Letters. 4 (7): 1151–1153. doi:10.1021/ol025560c. PMID 11922805.
  32. ^ Aynilian, GH; Weiss, SG; Cordell, GA; Abraham, DJ; Crane, FA; Farnsworth, NR (1974). "Catharanthus alkaloids. XXIX. Isolation and structure elucidation of vincoline". Journal of Pharmaceutical Sciences. 63 (4): 536–8. doi:10.1002/jps.2600630409. PMID 4828700.
  33. ^ Yao, XG; Chen, F; Li, P; Quan, L; Chen, J; Yu, L; Ding, H; Li, C; Chen, L; Gao, Z; Wan, P; Hu, L; Jiang, H; Shen, X (2013). "Natural product vindoline stimulates insulin secretion and efficiently ameliorates glucose homeostasis in diabetic murine models". Journal of Ethnopharmacology. 150 (1): 285–97. doi:10.1016/j.jep.2013.08.043. PMID 24012527.
  34. ^ Toki, Kenjiro; Saito, Norio; Irie, Yuki; Tatsuzawa, Fumi; Shigihara, Atsushi; Honda, Toshio (2008). "7-O-Methylated anthocyanidin glycosides from Catharanthus roseus". Phytochemistry. 69 (5): 1215–1219. doi:10.1016/j.phytochem.2007.11.005. PMID 18164044.
  35. ^ "American Society of Plant Biologists". August 2018.

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