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Rubia tinctorum - L.
Common Name Madder, Dyer's madder
Family Rubiaceae
USDA hardiness 5-9
Known Hazards Potential to cause cancers, particularly liver and kidney. From the information currently available it is not recommended as a herbal medicine [301].
Habitats Neglected ground, hedgerows and among rubble[7].
Range Europe - Mediterranean. Naturalized in Britain[17].
Edibility Rating  
Other Uses  
Weed Potential No
Medicinal Rating  
Fully Hardy Well drained soil Moist Soil Semi-shade Full sun


Rubia tinctorum Madder, Dyer

Rubia tinctorum Madder, Dyer
Physical Characteristics
 icon of manicon of flower
Rubia tinctorum is an evergreen Perennial growing to 1 m (3ft 3in) by 1 m (3ft 3in) at a medium rate.
It is hardy to zone (UK) 6. It is in leaf 12-Jan It is in flower in June, and the seeds ripen in September. The flowers are hermaphrodite (have both male and female organs)Suitable for: light (sandy) and medium (loamy) soils and prefers well-drained soil. Suitable pH: acid, neutral and basic (alkaline) soils. It can grow in semi-shade (light woodland) or no shade. It prefers dry or moist soil. The plant can tolerate maritime exposure.

Galium rubia. Rubia acaliculata. Rubia iberica. Rubia sativa.

 Hedgerow; Cultivated Beds;
Edible Uses
None known
Medicinal Uses

Plants For A Future can not take any responsibility for any adverse effects from the use of plants. Always seek advice from a professional before using a plant medicinally.

Aperient;  Astringent;  Cholagogue;  Diuretic;  Emmenagogue.

The root is aperient, astringent, cholagogue, diuretic and emmenagogue[4, 7, 21]. It is taken internally in the treatment of kidney and bladder stones[238]. The root is seldom used in herbal medicine but is said to be effective in the treatment of amenorrhoea, dropsy and jaundice[4]. The roots are harvested in the autumn from plants that are at least 3 years old. They are peeled and then dried[238]. When taken internally the root imparts a red colour to the milk, urine and bones, especially the bones of young animals, and it is used in osteopathic investigations[4, 200].
Other Uses
Dye;  Polish.

A very good quality red dye is obtained from the roots. Some reports say that 2 year old roots are used in the spring and autumn[61, 200, 238] whilst others say that 3 year old roots are used[169, 171]. The roots can be dried for later use[169]. The dye can also be extracted from the leaves[169]. This dye is also used medicinally[200]. The leaves and stem are prickly, the whorls of leaves having spines along the midrib on the underside[4]. This feature enables them to be used for polishing metalwork[4, 148].
Cultivation details
Prefers a light sandy soil in full sun[14]. Plants grown in fertile well-limed soils produce more pigment in the root[169]. This plant was at one time widely cultivated for the red dye obtained from its roots, this dye is now manufactured chemically[200]. However, it is still cultivated in Europe as a medicinal dye plant. The plant produces many side roots that can travel just under the surface of the soil for some distance before sending up new shoots[4]. This species is closely related to R. peregrina[4].
Seed - best sown as soon as it is ripe in a cold frame. Stored seed can be very slow to germinate[200]. Prick out the seedlings when they are large enough to handle and grow them on in light shade in the greenhouse for the first year. Plant them out into their permanent positions in early summer. Division in spring or at any time in the growing season if the divisions are kept well watered until established[200]. Larger divisions can be planted out direct into their permanent positions. We have found it best to pot up the smaller divisions and grow them on in a lightly shaded position in a cold frame, planting them out once they are well established in the summer.
Other Names
Found In
Weed Potential

Right plant wrong place. We are currently updating this section. Please note that a plant may be invasive in one area but may not in your area so it’s worth checking.

Conservation Status
IUCN Red List of Threatened Plants Status :
Related Plants
Latin NameCommon NameEdibility RatingMedicinal Rating
Adina rubella 01
Asperula cynanchicaSquinancy Wort01
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Borojoa patinoiBorojo42
Carapichea ipecacuanhaIpecac04
Cephalanthus occidentalisButton Bush, Common buttonbush, Button Willow, Honey Bells, Buttonbush02
Ciliosemina pedunculataCiliosemina04
Cinchona calisayaPeruvian Bark, Quinine25
Cinchona officinalisLojabark05
Cinchona pubescensQuinine tree, Red Bark, Cinchona, Quina, Quinquina, Quinine Bark, Peruvian Bark, Jesuit's Bark25
Coprosma acerosaSand Coprosma20
Coprosma areolata 10
Coprosma atropurpurea 10
Coprosma billardieriNative Currant10
Coprosma brunnea 20
Coprosma foetidissima 10
Coprosma grandifolia 11
Coprosma hirtella 10
Coprosma lucida 20
Coprosma moorei 10
Coprosma nitida 20
Coprosma petriei 10
Coprosma propinqua 10
Coprosma pumila 10
Coprosma repensMirror Plant, Creeping mirrorplant10
Coprosma rhamnoides 10
Coprosma robusta 11
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Coprosma rugosa 10
Coprosma serrulata 10


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Readers comment
mike roberts   Tue Jan 22 2008

Wild Colours Most natural dyes come from dye plants and the best-known ones are madder, brazilwood, weld, woad and indigo

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Subject : Rubia tinctorum  

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