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Catharanthus roseus (L.) G.Don

Botanical Name

Catharanthus roseus (L.) G. Don


Ammocallis rosea (L.) Small, Lochnera rosea (L.) Rchb. ex Endl., Pervinca rosea (L.) Gaterau, Vinca gulielmi-waldemarii Klotzsch, Vinca rosea L., Vinca speciosa Salisb. [Illegitimate], Pervinca rosea (L.) Moench, Lachnea rosea (L.) Rchb., Hottonia littoralis Lour. [4]



Vernacular Names

Malaysia Kemunting cina, rumput jalang, tahi ayam [5]
English Madagascar periwinkle, big leaf periwinkle, large periwinkle, periwinkle, vinca, old maid, cayenne jasmine, rose periwinkle [2]
Indonesia Bunga serdadu, kembang tembaga, tapak dara [5]
Philippines Chichirica (Sp); kantotai, amnias (Tagalog) [5]
Thailand Nom in (Surat Thani); phakpot bok (Northern); phaengphuai bok (Bangkok) [5]
Vietnam c[aa]y b[oo]ng d[uwf]a, d[uwf]a c[aj]n, hoa h[ar]i d[awf]ng [5].


Catharanthus roseus is a member of the Apocyanacea family. It is a semi-woody evergreen perennial plant that can reach up to 1 m high. The leaves are simple, opposite, and oblong; margins are entire, apex mucronate and base tapered. The petioles are short. The inflorescences are usually of solitary flowers or cymes of two or three flowers borne in axils of the leaves. The flowers are large and showy with sepals fused and narrow. The corollas are salverform. The petals are rosy purple, pink, red or white with red centres. The fruits are follicular, short and indumented. The seeds are numerous [3].


Native of Madagascar, India and the east. Now widespread throughout the tropics and is cultivated in many areas of the world as an ornamental garden plant [2].

Plant Use

The showy flowers are an attraction to gardeners to add to their collection of flowering plants. It is a common landscape plant both in public gardens and private homes. Traditionally it has been used in folk remedies including as diuretic, anthelmintic, emetic and laxative. It has been advocated for use in the treatment of diabetes and hypertension [1] [2] [3].

Toxic Parts

Whole plant [2].


C. roseus contains more than 70 indole alkaloids known as vinca alkaloids (e.g. vincristine) together with several glycosides. The vinca alkaloids are clinically similar to colchicine, a cytotoxic alkaloid capable of inhibiting microtubule formation. Most of them are pharmacologically active, with varying degree of toxicity. Amongst the alkaloids present included are alstonine, reserpine, vinblastine, vincristine, yohimbine and others of yohimbinoid and stychnoid bases [1] [2] [3].

Some of these alkaloids especially alstonins and reserpine predominantly cause hypotension, bradycardia and sedation. Others are potent antineoplastic, hypoglycaemic, neurotoxic and teratogenic agents [3].

Risk Management

C. roseus grown in houses should be kept away from children especially the curious toddlers and domestic animals [1] [3].

Clinical Findings

Upon ingestion of C. roseus, oropharyngeal pain would be experienced. This is followed by intense gastrointestinal symptoms including vomiting, abdominal pain and severe profuse and persistent diarrhoea resulting in subsequent dehydration and electrolyte imbalance occurring after several hours. Other toxic consequences include peripheral neuropathy, bone marrow suppression and cardiovascular collapse.

Animals ingesting the plant would suffer loss of appetite with subsequent development of ataxia, lateral flexure of the neck, tremors, and seizures, followed by coma and death in 1-2 days [1] [2] [3].


In cases of poisonous, immediate gastric lavage should be performed to prevent additional absorption of alkaloids followed by fluid and electrolyte replacement therapy. Furthermore, aggressive symptomatic and supportive care should be given more attention with prolonged observation of symptomatic patients [1] [2].


  1. Nellis DW. Poisonous plants and animals of Florida and the Caribbean. Sarasota: Pineapple Press Inc.; 1997. p. 139.
  2. Nelson LS, Shih RD, Balick MJ. Handbook of poisonous and injurious plants. Berlin: Springer-Verlag; 2007. p. 113-114.
  3. Burrows GE, Tyrl RJ. Toxic Plants of North America. 2nd ed. Ames, Iowa: John Wiley & Sons; 2013. p. 96-97.
  4. The Plant List. Catharanthus roseus (L.) G. Don.  Ver1.1. c2013 [cited 2014 August 13]. Available from: 
  5. Rudjiman SH. Catharanthus roseus (L.) G. Don In: de Padua, L.S., Bunyapraphatsara N, Lemmens RHMJ, editors. Plant Resources of South-East Asia No. 12(1): Medicinal and poisonous plants 1. Leiden, Netherlands: Backhuys Publisher; 1999. p. 185-190.

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