Catharanthus roseus

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Madagascar rosy periwinkle
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, 1837
  • Vinca rosea (basionym)
  • Ammocallis rosea
  • Lochnera rosea
A Catharanthus Roseus flower in Hyderabad, India

Catharanthus roseus, commonly known as the Madagascar periwinkle, rosy periwinkle or teresita as it is usually named in the southern part of Mexico, specifically in Champotón, Campeche and Mérida,[1] is a species of flowering plant in the dogbane 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. Other English names include Vinca, Cape periwinkle, rose periwinkle, rosy periwinkle, and "old-maid".[2][3] 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.[4]
Catharanthus roseus var. albus G.Don[5]
Catharanthus roseus var. occellatus G.Don[5]
Catharanthus roseus var. nanus Markgr.[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] 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

Cultivation and uses[edit]

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, 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.[12] Many of the vinca alkaloids were first isolated from Catharanthus roseus,,[18] including vinblastine and vincristine used in the treatment of leukemia[15] and Hodgkin's lymphoma.[12]

A Periwinkle shrub in Hyderabad, Pakistan

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.[19]

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.

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.[20] 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.[21]

Chemical constituents[edit]

Vinblastine and vincristine, chemotherapy medications used to treat several types of cancers, are found in the plant[22][23][24][25] and are biosynthesised from the coupling of the alkaloids catharanthine and vindoline.[26] The newer semi-synthetic chemotherapeutic agent vinorelbine, used in the treatment of non-small-cell lung cancer,[24][27] can be prepared either from vindoline and catharanthine[24][28] or from the vinca alkaloid leurosine,[29] in both cases via anhydrovinblastine.[28]

Rosinidin is an anthocyanidin pigment found in the flowers of C. roseus.[30]

Other names[edit]

Botanical Names Vs Common Names can be confusing. There are many common names for this periwinkle or Vinca[31].C. roseus is known as 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, "İzmir Güzeli" in Turkish (meaning Smyrna beauty) indicating the city that has the best climate conditions for it to flourish in Turkey, and "Dhafnaki" [in Greek Language Δαφνάκι] (meaning little Daphne) in Greece and Cyprus. It is also called Nithya Kalyani (நித்ய கல்யாணி) and Sudukaatu Mallikai in Tamil Nadu. It is called Nayantara (নযনতারা) ("eyeball") in Bengali.



  1. ^ Translated by Livio III Ceballos García, all credits goes to the quoted website
  2. ^ Flora of Madagascar: Catharanthus roseus
  3. ^ Germplasm Resources Information Network: Catharanthus roseus
  4. ^ Steenis ex Bakhuizen f., Blumea 6: 384. 1950.
  5. ^ a b 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. ^ a b c Huxley, A., ed. (1992). New RHS Dictionary of Gardening. Macmillan ISBN 0-333-47494-5.
  12. ^ a b c Flora of China: Catharanthus roseus
  13. ^ College of Micronesia: Catharanthus roseus
  14. ^ Jepson Flora: Catharanthus roseus
  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. 
  17. ^ "Factsheet - Catharanthus roseus". Queensland Government. Retrieved 2 November 2015. 
  18. ^ 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. PMID 15032608. doi:10.2174/0929867043455846. 
  19. ^ Karasov, Corliss (2001). "Who Reaps the Benefits of Biodiversity?" (PDF). Environmental Health Perspectives. 109 (12): A582–A587. PMC 1240518Freely accessible. PMID 11748021. 
  20. ^ 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. 
  21. ^ Chang, Chung-Jan (1998). "Pathogenicity of Aster Yellows Phytoplasma and Spiroplasma citri on Periwinkle". Phytopathology. 88 (12): 1347–1350. doi:10.1094/PHYTO.1998.88.12.1347Freely accessible. 
  22. ^ 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. 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. ISBN 9783540728795. doi:10.1007/128_2007_130. 
  23. ^ 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 9781498704304. 
  24. ^ a b c Keglevich, Péter; Hazai, Laszlo; Kalaus, György; Szántay, Csaba (2012). "Modifications on the basic skeletons of vinblastine and vincristine". Molecules. 17: 5893–5914. PMID 22609781. doi:10.3390/molecules17055893. 
  25. ^ Raviña, Enrique (2011). "Vinca alkaloids". The evolution of drug discovery: From traditional medicines to modern drugs. John Wiley & Sons. pp. 157–159. ISBN 9783527326693. 
  26. ^ 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. Biotechnology in Agriculture and Forestry 26. Medicinal and Aromatic Plants. VI. Springer-Verlag. pp. 46–55. ISBN 9783540563914. 
  27. ^ 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. PMC 3117629Freely accessible. doi:10.4137/CMO.S5074. 
  28. ^ 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. PMID 19072542. doi:10.1021/jm801064y. 
  29. ^ 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. 
  30. ^ Toki, Kenjiro; Saito, Norio; Irie, Yuki; Tatsuzawa, Fumi; Shigihara, Atsushi; Honda, Toshio (2008). "7-O-Methylated anthocyanidin glycosides from Catharanthus roseus". Phytochemisty. 69 (5): 1215–1219. PMID 18164044. doi:10.1016/j.phytochem.2007.11.005. 
  31. ^ Parker, Melody (28 March 2010). "Periwinkle or vinca? Botanical name vs. common name can create confusion". 

External links[edit]