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Field Madder

Sherardia arvensis

Please keep in mind that it is illegal to uproot a plant without the landowner's consent and care should be taken at all times not to damage wild plants. Wild plants should never be picked for pleasure and some plants are protected by law.
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Plant Profile

Flowering Months:
Rubiaceae (Bedstraw)
Life Cycle:
Maximum Size:
30 centimetres tall
Cliffs, fields, gardens, grassland, hedgerows, lawns, roadsides, rocky places, sand dunes, wasteland.

Pink, 4 petals
Tiny pale pink, 4 petals, surrounded by leaf-like bracts.
Egg-shaped, up to 3mm long, with 2 lobes that separate into oblong and slightly curved nutlets upon ripening.
The leaves are in whorls of 4 to 6 along the stems. Each leaf is linear and pointed, up to 8mm long.
Other Names:
Blue Field Madder, Herb Sherard, Meadow Bedstraw, Spurwort.
Frequency (UK):

Other Information


Sherardia arvensis, also known as field madder or blue field madder, is a perennial herbaceous plant that is native to Europe and Asia. It is known for its small blue flowers that bloom in spring to early summer, and its creeping habit. It is a low-growing plant that can reach up to 30 cm in height, with hairy leaves and stems. It prefers well-drained soil, partial shade and it is hardy in zones 4-8. This plant is a popular choice for rock gardens and as a ground cover, due to its low growing habit and attractive blue flowers. It is also often used as an ornamental plant in gardens and as a medicinal plant, although it is not as widely used as other Rubiaceae family plants like Rubia tinctorum.


Sherardia arvensis, commonly known as Field Madder, is a small, annual plant that belongs to the Rubiaceae family. It is native to Europe but has spread to many other parts of the world, including North America, Asia, and Africa. This plant is named after the English botanist William Sherard who discovered it in the 17th century.

Field Madder is a low-growing plant that can reach up to 30 centimeters in height. It has thin stems that are covered in fine hairs and can trail along the ground or climb up other plants for support. The leaves of Field Madder are arranged in opposite pairs along the stem, and are lance-shaped with a pointed tip. The leaves are also covered in fine hairs and have a slightly rough texture.

One of the most distinctive features of Field Madder is its flowers. The flowers are small, bell-shaped, and are usually pink or purple in color. They are arranged in clusters at the tips of the stems and bloom from May to September. The flowers of Field Madder are hermaphroditic, meaning they contain both male and female reproductive structures.

Field Madder is a versatile plant that can thrive in a variety of environments, including grasslands, meadows, and disturbed areas like roadsides and waste areas. It prefers well-drained soils and can tolerate both acidic and alkaline conditions. Field Madder is also able to withstand drought and can grow in areas with low water availability.

Field Madder has a long history of medicinal use. Its roots have been used to make a red dye for clothing, and the plant has been used to treat a variety of ailments including digestive disorders, skin problems, and respiratory infections. In traditional Chinese medicine, Field Madder is used to treat inflammation and promote blood circulation.

Field Madder also has cultural significance in some parts of the world. In Japan, it is known as "hanada" and is often used in traditional tea ceremonies. The plant is also associated with the Buddhist concept of impermanence and is used in some Buddhist rituals.

In addition to its medicinal uses, Field Madder has also been used in natural dyeing. The roots of the plant contain a red pigment that has been used to dye cloth for centuries. In fact, Field Madder was one of the most important sources of red dye in Europe before the discovery of synthetic dyes in the 19th century.

Field Madder is also an important food source for some animals. The seeds of the plant are a favorite food of birds, and the leaves and stems are eaten by some grazing animals like cows and sheep.

Despite its many uses, Field Madder is considered a weed in some areas. It can compete with other plants for resources and can be difficult to control once it becomes established. However, when managed properly, Field Madder can be a valuable addition to many landscapes.

Field Madder has also been studied for its potential therapeutic properties. Some studies have suggested that extracts from the plant may have anti-inflammatory and antioxidant effects. These properties could make Field Madder useful for treating conditions like arthritis and other inflammatory disorders.

In addition to its potential therapeutic benefits, Field Madder is also being studied for its ecological role. The plant has been found to support a variety of beneficial insects, including bees and butterflies. This makes it an important part of many ecosystems and highlights the importance of preserving native plant species.

Furthermore, Field Madder is being studied for its potential as a natural insecticide. Some researchers have found that extracts from the plant can repel or kill certain insect pests, making it a potentially useful tool for organic pest control.

Overall, Field Madder is a fascinating plant with a long history and many potential benefits. Whether you appreciate it for its beauty, its cultural significance, or its potential therapeutic properties, this plant is a valuable part of the natural world. By learning more about Field Madder and other native plant species, we can gain a greater understanding of the ecosystems that surround us and work to protect them for future generations.

Distribution Map

Reproduced by kind permission of the BSBI.

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