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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.


L. Brent Vaughan Hill's Practical Reference Library Volume II (NewYork, NY: Dixon, Hanson and Company, 1906)


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