Rosy Periwinkle or Nithyakalyani is a small shrub or herb from the family Apocynaceae. There are mainly two types of Periwinkle based on the color of flowers. They are either white or pink.
It is now widely cultivated as an ornamental plant as it is attractive and easy to grow. The plant can grow well in less fertile soil and can overcome harsh climates also.
The scientific name of Periwinkle is Catharanthus roseus. The white variety is called Vinca alba while the pink is Vinca rosea.
Plant Type: Evergreen Herb or Shrub
Scientific name: Catharanthus roseus
Height: ~50cm to 1m
Flowers: 5 petals, 5cm diameter, pink or white
Main uses: Ornamental plant, to synthesize medicines
Distribution: Widely found in the tropics
Sanskrit: Ushamalari, Nithyakalyani
Malayalam: Shavakkottapacha, Shavamnari
The flower has five petals and five sepals. There is a red spot at the center which occur on both the varieties. Some white varieties show a red center also. The petals open fully making the flower almost 5 cm in diameter.
The smooth and glossy leaves are oval in shape. The tip is rounded. The arrangement is alternative.
The fruits appear as cylindrical follicles which contains several seeds.
The plant looks like a herb and barely grows to 1 meter height. It is evergreen and the flowers occur throughout the year in tropical areas like Kerala.
Recent researches have revealed that Periwinkle contains certain valuable chemical compounds which have the following main abilities:
- Hypotensive ability
Most importantly, studies have found that the plant contains two indole alkaloids, namely Vincristine and Vinblastine which can help cure cancer.
However, the plant is also said to be highly toxic if consumed directly.
Distribition & Habitat
The Periwinkle plant and its cultivars are now a popular garden plant all over the tropical areas from America to Australia.
Since it grows well in cemeteries, it got the name Shavakkottapacha in Malayalam.
Although it prefers a warmer climate with well-drained soil and full sunlight, it can thrive in a wide variety of conditions. It occurs in plains and hill slopes up to 900 meters of altitude.