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Catharanthus roseus (L.) G. Don

Vinca rosea, Madagascar periwinkle

KingdomPlantaePlants, but not fungi, lichens, or algae
SubkingdomTracheobiontaVascular plants—plants with a “circulatory system” for delivering water and nutrients
DivisionMagnoliophytaFlowering plants, also known as angiosperms
ClassMagnoliopsidaDicotyledons—plants with two initial seed leaves
SubclassAsteridaeA large class that encompasses asters
OrderGentianalesGentians, coffee, gardenias, frangipani, many others
FamilyApocynaceaeDogbane family
GenusCatharanthusFrom the Greek katharos, “pure,” and anthos, “flower”

About plant names...

The Madagascar periwinkle is a native of Madagascar, now endangered there, but cultivated and naturalized in subtropical and tropical areas elsewhere.

Identification: 2-3′ (60-91 cm) in height. Leaves are dark green, glossy, oval, up to 5″ (12 cm) long x 2″ (5 cm) wide. Flowers have five petals and are rose pink. (There are many cultivars with red, purple, and white flowers too. Cultivars may have brighter or contrasting coloration at the center of the bloom.) When broken, stems exude a sticky white sap.

Edibility: Poisonous Skull & Crossbones This plant is toxic to cows and people.

Medical: Madagascar periwinkle has been used to treat wasp stings, arrest bleeding, reduce sore throats, an eyewash, for menorrhagia and rheumatism, diabetes, asthma, flatulence, tuberculosis, dyspepsia, indigestion, malaria, high blood pressure, and dysmenorrhea. Though it bears mention that each culture applied the plant for a different one of these purposes, calling these uses into question. But in recent years, this periwinkle has attracted serious medical attention because it contains several alkaloids of use in treating several cancers. See the National Tropical Botanical Garden article.

Online References:


The National Tropical Botanical Garden


ARKive: Images of Life on Earth


Forest and Kim Starr’s Starr Environmental site

The University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences

Ammocallis rosea (L.) Small

Lochnera rosea (L.) Rchb. ex Spach

Vinca rosea L.


Catharanthus roseus description by Thomas H. Kent, last updated 25 May 2020.

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Catharanthus roseus (vinca rosea, Madagascar periwinkle)

2/24/2010 · San Diego (Quail) Botanic Garden, Encinitas, Cali­fornia · ≈ 1½ × 1′ (52 × 34 cm)


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