Rubia is a genus of the madder family Rubiaceae, which contains about 80 species of perennial scrambling or climbing herbs and sub-shrubs native to the Old World, Africa, temperate Asia and America. The genus and its best known species are also known as Madder, Rubia tinctorum (Common Madder), Rubia peregrina (Wild Madder), and Rubia cordifolia (Munjeet or Indian Madder).
The Common Madder can grow up to 1.5 m in height. The evergreen leaves are approximately 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 red dyes known as rose madder and Turkey red. It prefers loamy soils (sand and clay soil) with a constant level of moisture. Madders are used as food plants for the larvae of some Lepidoptera species including the Hummingbird Hawk Moth.
- Rubia agostinhoi Dans. & P.Silva
- Rubia aitchisonii Deb & Malick
- Rubia alaica Pachom.
- Rubia albicaulis Boiss.
- Rubia angustisissima Wall. ex G.Don
- Rubia argyi (H.Lév. & Vaniot) Hara ex Lauener
- Rubia atropurpurea Decne.
- Rubia balearica (Willk.) Porta
- Rubia caramanica Bornm.
- Rubia charifolia Wall. ex G.Don
- Rubia chinensis Regel & Maack
- Rubia chitralensis Ehrend.
- Rubia clematidifolia Blume ex Decne.
- Rubia cordifolia L. – Indian Madder
- Rubia crassipes Collett & Hemsl.
- Rubia cretacea Pojark.
- Rubia danaensis Danin
- Rubia davisiana Ehrend.
- Rubia deserticola Pojark.
- Rubia discolor Turcz.
- Rubia dolichophylla Schrenk
- Rubia edgeworthii Hook.f.
- Rubia falciformis H.S.Lo
- Rubia filiformis F.C.How ex H.S.Lo
- Rubia florida Boiss.
- Rubia fruticosa Aiton
- Rubia garrettii Craib
- Rubia gedrosiaca Bornm.
- Rubia haematantha Ary Shaw
- Rubia hexaphylla (Makino) Makino
- Rubia himalayensis Klotzsch
- Rubia hispidicaulis D.G.Long
- Rubia horrida (Thunb.) Puff
- Rubia infundibularis Hemsl. & Lace
- Rubia jesoensis (Miq.) Miyabe & Kudo
- Rubia komarovii Pojark.
- Rubia krascheninnikovii Pojark.
- Rubia laevissima Tschern.
- Rubia latipetala H.S.Lo
- Rubia laurae (Holmboe) Airy Shaw
- Rubia laxiflora Gontsch.
- Rubia linii J.M.Chao
- Rubia magna P.G.Xiao
- Rubia mandersii Collett & Hemsl.
- Rubia manjith Roxb. ex Fleming
- Rubia maymanensis Ehrend. & Schönb.-Tem.
- Rubia membranacea Diels
- Rubia oncotricha Hand.-Mazz.
- Rubia oppositifolia Griff.
- Rubia ovatifolia Z.Ying Zhang ex Q.Lin
- Rubia pallida Diels
- Rubia pauciflora Boiss.
- Rubia pavlovii Bajtenov & Myrz.
- Rubia peregrina L. – Wild Madder
- Rubia petiolaris DC.
- Rubia philippinensis Elmer
- Rubia podantha Diels
- Rubia polyphlebia H.S.Lo
- Rubia pterygocaulis H.S.Lo
- Rubia rechingeri Ehrend.
- Rubia regelii Pojark.
- Rubia rezniczenkoana Litv.
- Rubia rigidifolia Pojark.
- Rubia rotundifolia Banks & Sol.
- Rubia salicifolia H.S.Lo
- Rubia schugnanica B.Fedtsch. ex Pojark.
- Rubia schumanniana E.Pritz.
- Rubia siamensis Craib
- Rubia sikkimensis Kurz
- Rubia tatarica (Trevir.) F.Schmidt
- Rubia tenuifolia d'Urv.
- Rubia thunbergii DC.
- Rubia tibetica Hook.f.
- Rubia tinctorum L. – Common Madder
- Rubia transcaucasica Grossh.
- Rubia trichocarpa H.S.Lo
- Rubia truppeliana Loes.
- Rubia wallichiana Decne.
- Rubia yunnanensis 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, which were first isolated by the French chemist Pierre Jean Robiquet in 1826. Purpurin is normally not coloured, but is red when dissolved in alkaline 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, and was used to make the alizarine ink in 1855 by the Professor Leonhardi of Dresden, Germany. 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.
Early evidence of dyeing comes from India where a piece of cotton dyed with madder has been recovered from the archaeological site at Mohenjo-daro (3rd millennium BCE). In Sanskrit, this plant is known by the name Manjishtha. It was used by hermits to dye their clothes saffron. 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 European 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, after earlier being dyed with cochineal.
Turkey red was a strong, very fast red dye for cotton obtained from madder root via a complicated multistep process involving "sumac and oak galls, calf's blood, sheep's dung, oil, soda, alum, and a solution of tin." Turkey red was developed in India and spread to Turkey. Greek workers familiar with the methods of its production were brought to France in 1747, and Dutch and English spies soon discovered the secret. A sanitized version of Turkey red was being produced in Manchester by 1784, and roller-printed dress cottons with a Turkey red ground were fashionable in England by the 1820s.
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.
- John Cannon & Margaret Cannon (2002). Dye Plants and Dyeing (2nd ed.). A & C Black. pp. 76, 80. ISBN 978-0-7136-6374-7.
- H. C. Bhardwaj & K. K. Jain (1982). "Indian dyes and dyeing industry during 18th–19th century" (PDF). Indian Journal of History of Science (New Delhi: Indian National Science Academy) 17 (11): 70–81.
- "Where did the Redcoat red dye come from?". The First Foot Guards. Retrieved 15 February 2011.
- Jill Goodwin (1982). A Dyer's Manual. Pelham Books. p. 65. ISBN 978-0-7207-1327-5.
- Jane Tozer & Sarah Levitt (1983). Fabric of Society: A Century of People and their Clothes 1770–1870. Laura Ashley Press. pp. 29–30. ISBN 978-0-9508913-0-9.