This is a perennial herb growing up to one meter tall. It has an unpleasant scent. It contains a white latex. The stems and brances are squared, winged, and reddish or purplish in color. The oppositely arranged leaves have hairy, pointed oval blades up to 8.5 centimeters long. They are each accompanied by several stipules. Flowers occur singly or in pairs in the leaf axils. The calyx is up to a centimeter long and has five long, narrow lobes. The corolla has a tubular throat over 2 centimeters long opening into five lobes each up to 1.8 centimeters long. The flowers may be white, pink, red, or purple, with yellowish centers. The fruit is a pair of greenish or purplish follicles up to 7 centimeters long. Each contains 10 to 20 seeds.
The plant is used in traditional medicine to treat a variety of conditions, including sexually transmitted diseases, impotency, back pain, toothache, fever, dysentery, bleeding, and liver diseases. It is used as a stimulant, an aphrodisiac, and an appetite suppressant.
The plant is a congeneric of the Madagascar periwinkle (C. roseus), the original main source of vinca alkaloids, also known as catharanthus alkaloids, which are still in use today as anticancer drugs. C. trichophyllus contains lower concentrations of such alkaloids. The two species can be hybridized to increase the concentration.
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- "Catharanthus trichophyllus". The Plant List. Retrieved 24 July 2013.
- Schmelzer, G. H. (2007). Catharanthus trichophyllus (Baker) Pichon. In: Schmelzer, G. H. and A. Gurib-Fakim. (Editors). Prota 11(1): Medicinal Plants/Plantes Médicinales 1. PROTA. Wageningen, Netherlands.
- Catharanthus trichophyllus. Madagascar Catalogue. eFloras.
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