Madder: A Bit of Botany
a little botanical information on madder

Madder is a member of the Rubiaceae family and can grow up to 1.5 m in height. Its evergreen leaves are approximately 5–10 cm long and 2–3 cm broad and are produced in whorls of 4–7 star like around the central stem. Madder is a climbing herb; it has tiny hooks at the leaves and stems which allow it to do so.

Madder flowers are small (3–5 mm across), with five pale yellow petals, in dense racemes. They bloom from June to August and are followed by small (4–6 mm diameter) red-to-black berries.

The roots of the Madder plant can be over a meter long, up to 12 mm thick.

common names & nomenclature
The common name Dyer’s Madder is in reference to the red dye made from the roots of the plant.

Also known as:
madder, common madder, dyer’s madder, krapp, robbia

Madder, from the dyer's garden
Madder: Where in the World
habitat and range for madder

Madder is native to the Old World, Africa, temperate Asia and America.

Madder: Cultivation & Harvesting
considerations for growing and harvesting madder

Madder grows in full sun, often found in waste spaces, hedgerows or cultivated beds.

Madder prefers loamy soils—soils of sand and clay—with a constant level of moisture.

Seeds should be sown in a cold frame as soon as ripe, since stored seed can be very slow to germinate. Once large enough to handle, the seedlings can be transplanted and grown in light shade in the greenhouse for the first year.

They can be planted out into their permanent garden locations in the early summer. If kept well watered until established, divisions can take place in spring or at any time during the growing season. Larger divisions can be planted out directly into their permanent garden locations.

Madder roots are harvested in the autumn from plants that are at least 3 years old. They are peeled and then dried, also ground into powder.

Store dried madder root in an airtight container in a cool, dry place.