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Madagascar Periwinkle

image of caranthus roseus
H. Zell, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Madagascar Periwinkle (Catharanthus roseus)

Madagascar Periwinkle (Caranthus roseus) is an evergreen, herbaceous plant that grows to 4 feet tall. This plant is native to Madagascar and is a perennial is warm climates, though often grown as an annual in more temperate regions. It is commonly used as an ornamental plant due to its attractive, pink, five-lobed flowers, though cultivars of additional colors are also available. This species is also known by the names Rose Periwinkle, Cape Periwinkle, or Annual Vinca. Though commonly called periwinkle, and previously classified as a member of the Vinca genus, it has since been moved to Catharanthus (North Carolina Extension). Madagascar Periwinkle is the source for both vinblastine and vincristine, which are used as chemotherapy medications to treat a number of types of cancer.    

Historical Use

Madagascar Periwinkle (Caranthus roseus) has an exceptionally long history of being used as a medicinal plant. The oldest mention of the plant being used medicinally dates back to 2600 BC when it appears in Mesopotamian folklore (Nejat et al., 2015). Madagascar Periwinkle has also been used in the Ayurveda system of traditional Indian medicine as well as traditional Chinese medicine (Kumar, Singh, & Singh, 2022). Historically, the plant has been used to treat diabetes, cancer, respiratory ailments, inflammation, and as a diuretic (Natural Medicines, 2021).

Latest Research

  • The leaf idioblastome of the medicinal plant Catharanthus roseus is associated with stress resistance and alkaloid metabolism
    by Joana G Guedes on October 7, 2023 at 10:00 am

    Catharanthus roseus leaves produce a range of monoterpenoid indole alkaloids (MIAs) that include low levels of the anticancer drugs vinblastine and vincristine. The MIA pathway displays a complex architecture spanning different subcellular and cell type localizations, and is under complex regulation. As a result, the development of strategies to increase the levels of the anticancer MIAs has remained elusive. The pathway involves mesophyll specialized idioblasts where the late unsolved…

  • Single-cell multi-omics in the medicinal plant Catharanthus roseus
    by Chenxin Li on May 15, 2023 at 10:00 am

    Advances in omics technologies now permit the generation of highly contiguous genome assemblies, detection of transcripts and metabolites at the level of single cells and high-resolution determination of gene regulatory features. Here, using a complementary, multi-omics approach, we interrogated the monoterpene indole alkaloid (MIA) biosynthetic pathway in Catharanthus roseus, a source of leading anticancer drugs. We identified clusters of genes involved in MIA biosynthesis on the eight C….

  • An updated version of the Madagascar periwinkle genome
    by Clément Cuello on February 10, 2023 at 11:00 am

    The Madagascar periwinkle, Catharanthus roseus, belongs to the Apocynaceae family. This medicinal plant, endemic to Madagascar, produces many important drugs including the monoterpene indole alkaloids (MIA) vincristine and vinblastine used to treat cancer worldwide. Here, we provide a new version of the C. roseus genome sequence obtained through the combination of Oxford Nanopore Technologies long-reads and Illumina short-reads. This more contiguous assembly consists of 173 scaffolds with a…

  • Internal and External Regulatory Elements Controlling Somatic Embryogenesis in Catharanthus: A Model Medicinal Plant
    by A Mujib on August 11, 2022 at 10:00 am

    Somatic or in vitro embryogenesis is a unique embryo producing process from vegetative cells observed in plants since 1958. Even over 60 years of research, the transition of somatic cells into embryonic fate is still not elucidated fully. Various networks and signaling elements have been noted to play important role in this “vegetative to reproductive” transition process. The networks include genotypes, explant types, the sugar/carbohydrate sources, cultural/environmental conditions like light…

  • Identification and Characterization of Transcription Factors Regulating Terpenoid Indole Alkaloid Biosynthesis in Catharanthus roseus
    by Sanjay K Singh on June 22, 2022 at 10:00 am

    Biosynthesis of the therapeutically valuable terpenoid indole alkaloids (TIAs), in the medicinal plant Catharanthus roseus, is one of the most elaborate and complex metabolic processes. Although genomic and transcriptomic resources have significantly accelerated gene discovery in the TIA pathway, relatively few genes of transcription factors (TFs) have been identified and characterized thus far. Systematic identification of TFs and elucidation of their functions are crucial for understanding TIA…


 Dugé de Bernonville, T., Maury, S., Delaunay, A., Daviaud, C., Chaparro, C., Tost, J., . . . Courdavault, V. (2020). Developmental Methylome of the Medicinal Plant Catharanthus roseus Unravels the Tissue-Specific Control of the Monoterpene Indole Alkaloid Pathway by DNA Methylation. Int J Mol Sci, 21(17). doi:10.3390/ijms21176028

Gardener, N. C. E. (2021). Catharanthus roseus. Plant Toolbox. Retrieved from

Kumar, S., Singh, B., & Singh, R. (2022). Catharanthus roseus (L.) G. Don: A review of its ethnobotany, phytochemistry, ethnopharmacology and toxicities. J Ethnopharmacol, 284, 114647. doi:10.1016/j.jep.2021.114647

Liang, J., An, T., Zhu, J. X., Chen, S., Zhu, J. H., Peters, R. J., . . . Zi, J. (2021). Mining of the Catharanthus roseus Genome Leads to Identification of a Biosynthetic Gene Cluster for Fungicidal Sesquiterpenes. J Nat Prod, 84(10), 2709-2716. doi:10.1021/acs.jnatprod.1c00588

Medicines, N. (2021). Madagascar Periwinkle. Madagascar Periwinkle.

Moon, S. H., Pandurangan, M., Kim, D. H., Venkatesh, J., Patel, R. V., & Mistry, B. M. (2018). A rich source of potential bioactive compounds with anticancer activities by Catharanthus roseus cambium meristematic stem cell cultures. J Ethnopharmacol, 217, 107-117. doi:10.1016/j.jep.2018.02.021

Nejat, N., Valdiani, A., Cahill, D., Tan, Y. H., Maziah, M., & Abiri, R. (2015). Ornamental exterior versus therapeutic interior of Madagascar periwinkle (Catharanthus roseus): the two faces of a versatile herb. ScientificWorldJournal, 2015, 982412. doi:10.1155/2015/982412

Pham, H. N. T., Sakoff, J. A., Vuong, Q. V., Bowyer, M. C., & Scarlett, C. J. (2019). Phytochemical, antioxidant, anti-proliferative and antimicrobial properties of Catharanthus roseus root extract, saponin-enriched and aqueous fractions. Mol Biol Rep, 46(3), 3265-3273. doi:10.1007/s11033-019-04786-8

Qu, Y., Safonova, O., & De Luca, V. (2019). Completion of the canonical pathway for assembly of anticancer drugs vincristine/vinblastine in Catharanthus roseus. Plant J, 97(2), 257-266. doi:10.1111/tpj.14111