Catharanthus is a genus of flowering plants in the dogbane family, Apocynaceae. Like genus Vinca, they are known commonly as periwinkles. There are eight known species. Seven are endemic to Madagascar, though one, C. roseus, is widely naturalized around the world. The eighth species, C. pusillus, is native to India and Sri Lanka. The name Catharanthus comes from the Greek for "pure flower".
These are perennial herbs with oppositely or almost oppositely arranged leaves. Flowers are usually solitary in the leaf axils. Each has a calyx with five long, narrow lobes and a corolla with a tubular throat and five lobes.
Catharanthus roseus, known formerly as Vinca rosea, is a main source of vinca alkaloids, now sometimes called catharanthus alkaloids. The plant produces about 130 of these compounds, including vinblastine and vincristine, two drugs used to treat cancer.
Catharanthus roseus is also cultivated as an ornamental plant in gardens. Several cultivars have been bred to produce flowers in many shades of pink, red, lilac, and white, or in light shades with dark throats.
- Catharanthus coriaceus Markgr. - Madagascar
- Catharanthus lanceus (Bojer ex A.DC.) Pichon - Madagascar
- Catharanthus longifolius (Pichon) Pichon - Madagascar
- Catharanthus ovalis Markgr. - Madagascar
- Catharanthus pusillus (Murray) G.Don. - India, Sri Lanka, Western Himalayas
- Catharanthus roseus (L.) G.Don. – Madagascar periwinkle, old-maid, rosy periwinkle, pink periwinkle - Madagascar; naturalized in Italy, S Asia, Australia, S United States, Central America, and various oceanic islands
- Catharanthus scitulus (Pichon) Pichon - Madagascar
- Catharanthus trichophyllus (Baker) Pichon - Madagascar
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- lectotype designated by Pfeiffer, Nom. 1: 627 (1873)
- "World Checklist of Selected Plant Families". Retrieved May 21, 2014.
- Catharanthus. Integrated Taxonomic Information System (ITIS).
- Catharanthus. Madagascar Catalogue. eFloras.
- Catharanthus roseus. Germplasm Resources Information Network (GRIN).
- Catharanthus pusillus. Germplasm Resources Information Network (GRIN).
- Catharanthus. The Jepson eFlora 2013.
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