name = Madder

image_width = 250px
image_caption = Common Madder ("Rubia tinctorum")
regnum = Plantae
divisio = Magnoliophyta
classis = Magnoliopsida
ordo = Gentianales
familia = Rubiaceae
tribus = Rubieae
genus = "Rubia"
genus_authority = L.
subdivision_ranks = Species
subdivision = See text.

Madder is the common name of the plant genus "Rubia", the type genus of the madder family Rubiaceae. The genus contains about 60 species of perennial scrambling or climbing herbs and sub-shrubs native to the Old World, Africa, temperate Asia and America. The best known species are Common Madder ("Rubia tinctorum"), Wild Madder ("Rubia peregrina"), and Indian Madder ("Rubia cordifolia").

The Common Madder can grow to 1.5 m in height. The evergreen leaves are 5-10 cm long and 2-3 cm broad, produced in whorls of 4-7 starlike around the central stem. It climbs with tiny hooks at the leaves and stems. The flowers are small (3-5 mm across), with five pale yellow petals, in dense racemes, and appear from June to August, followed by small (4-6 mm diameter) red to black berries. The roots can be over a metre long, up to 12 mm thick and the source of a red dye known as rose madder. It prefers loamy soils with a constant level of moisture. Madders are used as food plants for the larvae of some Lepidoptera species including Hummingbird hawk moth.


* "Rubia akane"
* "Rubia alaica" Pachom.
* "Rubia angustifolia" L.
** "Rubia angustifolia" ssp. "angustifolia"
** "Rubia angustifolia" ssp. "caespitosa"
* "Rubia chinensis" Regel & Maack
* "Rubia chitralensis" Ehrend.
* "Rubia cordata" Thunb
* "Rubia cordifolia" L. : Indian Madder
* "Rubia cretacea" Pojark.
* "Rubia deserticola" Pojark.
* "Rubia dolichophylla" Schrenk
* "Rubia florida" Boiss.
* "Rubia fruticosa"
* "Rubia jesoensis" (Miq.) Miyabe & Miyake
* "Rubia komarovii" Pojark.
* "Rubia krascheninnikovii" Pojark.
* "Rubia laevissima" Tscherneva
* "Rubia laxiflora" Gontsch.
* "Rubia pavlovii" Bajtenov & Myrz.
* "Rubia peregrina" L. : Wild Madder
* "Rubia rechingeri" Ehrend.
* "Rubia regelii" Pojark.
* "Rubia rezniczenkoana" Litv.
* "Rubia rigidifolia" Pojark.
* "Rubia schugnanica" B.Fedtsch. ex Pojark.
* "Rubia sikkimensis" Kurz
* "Rubia syrticola" Miq.
* "Rubia tatarica" (Trevir.) F.Schmidt
* "Rubia tibetica" Hook.f.
* "Rubia tinctorum" L. : Common Madder
* "Rubia transcaucasica" Grossh.
* "Rubia yunnanensis" (Franch. ex Diels) Diels


It has been used since ancient times as a vegetable red dye for leather, wool, cotton and silk. For dye production, the roots are harvested in the first year. The outer brown layer gives the common variety of the dye, the lower yellow layer the refined variety. The dye is fixed to the cloth with help of a mordant, most commonly alum. Madder can be fermented for dyeing as well (Fleurs de garance). In France, the remains were used to produce a spirit as well.

The roots contain the acid ruberthyrin. By drying, fermenting or a treatment with acids, this is changed to sugar, alizarin and purpurin. Purpurin is normally not coloured, but is red when dissolved in alcalic solutions. Mixed with clay and treated with alum and ammonia, it gives a brilliant red colourant (madder lake).

The pulverised roots can be dissolved in sulfuric acid, which leaves a dye called garance (the French name for madder) after drying. Another method of increasing the yield consisted of dissolving the roots in sulfuric acid after they had been used for dyeing. This produces a dye called garanceux. By treating the pulverized roots with alcohol, colorin was produced. It contained 40-50 times the amount of alizarin of the roots.

The chemical name for the pigment is alizarin, of the anthraquinone-group. In 1869, the German chemists Graebe and Liebermann synthesised artificial alizarin, which was produced industrially from 1871 onwards, which effectively put an end to the cultivation of madder. In the 20th century, madder was only grown in some areas of France.


Dioscorides and Pliny the Elder (De Re Natura) mention the plant (Rubia passiva). In Viking age levels of York, remains of both woad and madder have been excavated. The oldest textiles dyed with madder come from the grave of the Merovingian queen Arnegundis in St. Denis near Paris (between 565 and 570 AD). In the "Capitulare de villis" of Charlemagne, madder is mentioned as "warentiam". The herbal of Hildegard of Bingen mentions the plant as well. The red coats of the British Redcoats were dyed with madder.

According to Culpeper's herbal, the plant is ruled by Mars and has an opening quality, and will bind and strengthen afterwards. It was used in the treatment of jaundice, obstruction of the spleen, melancholy, palsy, haemorrhoids, sciatica, and of bruises. The root should be boiled in wine, and sugar or honey added. The seed of madder, drunk with vinegar and honey is used for the swelling of the spleen. Leaves and stems are used when the monthly female menstrual bleeding is late. Leaves and roots are squashed and put on freckles and other discolorations of the skin.


* R. Chenciner, Madder red: a history of luxury and trade (Richmond 2000).

External links

* [ showing shades of red obtained on wool with Madder]
* [ Article showing the results of cold dyeing wool with madder]
* [ Data sheet with pictures of madder] (German)

Wikimedia Foundation. 2010.

Look at other dictionaries:

  • Madder — Mad der (m[a^]d d[ e]r), n. [OE. mader, AS. m[ae]dere; akin to Icel. ma[eth]ra.] (Bot.) A plant of the genus {Rubia} ({Rubia tinctorum}). The root is much used in dyeing red, and formerly was used in medicine. It is cultivated in France and… …   The Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • madder — (n.) type of plant (in modern use Rubia tinctorum) used for making dyes, O.E. mædere, from PIE *modhro dye plant (Cf. O.N. maðra, O.H.G. matara madder, Pol. modry, Czech modry blue ) …   Etymology dictionary

  • madder — madder1 [mad′ər] n. [ME mader < OE mædere, akin to ON mathra, Norw modra < IE base * modhro , dye plant > Czech modrý, blue] 1. any of a genus (Rubia) of plants of the madder family, with petals fused to form a funnel shaped corolla; esp …   English World dictionary

  • madder — ► NOUN ▪ a red dye or pigment obtained from the roots of a plant. ORIGIN Old English …   English terms dictionary

  • madder — madder1 /mad euhr/, n. 1. any plant of the genus Rubia, esp. the climbing R. tinctorum, of Europe, having open clusters of small, yellowish flowers. Cf. madder family. 2. the root of this plant, formerly used in dyeing. 3. the dye or coloring… …   Universalium

  • madder — noun Etymology: Middle English, from Old English mædere; akin to Old High German matara madder Date: before 12th century 1. a Eurasian herb (Rubia tinctorum of the family Rubiaceae, the madder family) with whorled leaves and small yellowish… …   New Collegiate Dictionary

  • madder — 1. The dried and powdered root of Rubia tinctorum (family Rubiaceae); it contains several glycosides that upon fermentation give the red dyes alizarin and purpurin. When m. (or alizarin) is fed to young animals, the calcium in newly deposited… …   Medical dictionary

  • madder — mad·der || mædÉ™(r) n. herbaceous climbing plant which bears clusters of yellow flowers; root of the madder plant; red dye extracted from the madder root; red or reddish orange color mæd adj. crazy, insane; furious, angry …   English contemporary dictionary

  • madder — dažinė raudė statusas T sritis vardynas apibrėžtis Raudinių šeimos dažinis, dekoratyvinis, vaistinis augalas (Rubia tinctorum), paplitęs pietvakarių Azijoje ir pietų Europoje. atitikmenys: lot. Rubia tinctorum angl. dyer s madder; Indian madde;… …   Lithuanian dictionary (lietuvių žodynas)

  • Madder — Mad Mad, a. [Compar. {Madder}; superl. {Maddest}.] [AS. gem?d, gem[=a]d, mad; akin to OS. gem?d foolish, OHG. gameit, Icel. mei?a to hurt, Goth. gam[ a]ids weak, broken. ?.] 1. Disordered in intellect; crazy; insane. [1913 Webster] I have heard… …   The Collaborative International Dictionary of English

Share the article and excerpts

Direct link
Do a right-click on the link above
and select “Copy Link”

We are using cookies for the best presentation of our site. Continuing to use this site, you agree with this.