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Wild Madder

Rubia peregrina

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.
For more information please download the BSBI Code of Conduct PDF document.


Plant Profile

Flowering Months:
Rubiaceae (Bedstraw)
Life Cycle:
Maximum Size:
2 metres tall
Hedgerows, roadsides, rocky places, scrub, sea cliffs.

Yellow, 5 petals
Small, pale yellowish-green, 5 petals, in clusters.
A small fleshy green berry, changing to black when ripe. Up to 5mm in diameter.
The dark green leaves are in whorls of 4 to 6, usually 6. Shiny, leathery, prickly and linear.
Other Names:
Levant Madder, Wild Rubia.
Frequency (UK):
Occasionally seen  

Similar Species

Other Information


Rubia peregrina, also known as wild madder or wild rubia, is a perennial herbaceous plant that is native to Europe, Asia and North Africa. It is similar to Rubia tinctorum in appearance, with green leaves and small, inconspicuous flowers that bloom in the summer. The plant can reach up to 2 meters in height. The root of the plant is used to produce a red dye, but it is not as commonly used as Rubia tinctorum. The plant prefers well-drained soil, full sun or partial shade and it is hardy in zones 4-8. This plant is not as commonly used as an ornamental or medicinal plant as other Rubiaceae family plants. It is also not as widely cultivated as Rubia tinctorum.


Wild Madder, also known as Rubia peregrina, is a perennial plant that is native to Europe and Western Asia. It is a member of the Rubiaceae family, which also includes the coffee plant. The plant is known for its red roots, which contain a pigment called alizarin that has been used as a natural dye for centuries.

Wild Madder is a climbing plant that can grow up to two meters in height. It has oval-shaped leaves that grow in pairs along its stems. The plant produces small greenish-white flowers that bloom from May to August. After flowering, the plant produces small, shiny black berries.

Wild Madder has a long history of use as a natural dye. The plant's roots contain alizarin, which is a red pigment that has been used to dye fabrics for thousands of years. The ancient Egyptians used Wild Madder to dye their linen garments, while the Romans used it to dye their woolen togas. In medieval Europe, Wild Madder was one of the most important dyes, and it was used to color the red robes of cardinals and the red coats of British soldiers.

Today, Wild Madder is still used as a natural dye. The roots are harvested in the autumn, and the outer bark is stripped away to reveal the red inner root. The roots are then dried and ground into a powder, which is used to dye fabrics. Wild Madder produces a range of colors, from pale pink to deep red, depending on the mordant used.

In addition to its use as a dye, Wild Madder has also been used in traditional medicine. The plant has been used to treat a range of ailments, including digestive problems, menstrual disorders, and skin conditions. The roots of the plant are believed to have anti-inflammatory and analgesic properties, and they have been used to treat arthritis and other inflammatory conditions.

Despite its long history of use, Wild Madder is not widely cultivated today. The plant is often found growing wild in hedgerows and along the edges of fields. However, there is growing interest in the use of natural dyes, and Wild Madder is one of the most important plants in this field. As consumers become more aware of the environmental and health risks associated with synthetic dyes, the demand for natural dyes is likely to increase, and Wild Madder is likely to play an important role in meeting this demand.

One of the reasons for the renewed interest in Wild Madder is its potential as a sustainable alternative to synthetic dyes. The production of synthetic dyes is a resource-intensive process that generates a lot of waste and pollution. The use of natural dyes like Wild Madder can help to reduce the environmental impact of the textile industry.

Wild Madder is also a versatile plant that can be grown in a range of climates and soil types. It is a hardy plant that can tolerate drought and poor soil conditions, making it a good option for farmers in developing countries. Additionally, the plant's deep roots help to improve soil health by breaking up compacted soil and increasing soil organic matter.

Another advantage of Wild Madder is that it is a perennial plant, meaning that it can be harvested year after year without the need for replanting. This makes it a more sustainable option than annual crops like cotton, which require a lot of resources to grow and harvest.

In recent years, Wild Madder has also been studied for its potential as a source of natural antioxidants. The plant contains a range of compounds, including flavonoids and phenolic acids, that have been shown to have antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties. These compounds may have applications in the food and cosmetics industries, as well as in medicine.

Wild Madder is a plant with many potential applications. Its use as a natural dye is well-established, but there is growing interest in its potential as a sustainable crop and a source of natural antioxidants. As the demand for sustainable and natural products continues to grow, Wild Madder is likely to become an increasingly important plant.

In addition to its use as a natural dye, Wild Madder has also been used in traditional folk medicine for its medicinal properties. The plant has been used to treat a variety of health conditions, including fever, respiratory problems, and skin infections. The roots of the plant contain a number of compounds with pharmacological activity, including anthraquinones and tannins, which have been shown to have anti-inflammatory, antimicrobial, and antioxidant effects.

Studies have also suggested that Wild Madder may have potential as a treatment for cancer. Some of the compounds found in the plant have been shown to have cytotoxic effects on cancer cells, meaning they can kill cancer cells or prevent them from growing. However, more research is needed to fully understand the potential of Wild Madder as a cancer treatment.

Wild Madder has also been used in traditional dying techniques, such as indigo dyeing. When used in combination with other natural dyes, such as indigo, Wild Madder can produce a range of beautiful and unique colors. Additionally, the use of natural dyes in textile production can help to preserve traditional artisanal techniques and promote cultural heritage.

Another interesting aspect of Wild Madder is its cultural significance. The plant has been used in many different cultures throughout history, from the ancient Egyptians to the medieval Europeans. In some cultures, Wild Madder was believed to have magical or spiritual properties. For example, in the Middle Ages, it was believed that carrying Wild Madder root could protect a person from the plague.

In conclusion, Wild Madder is a versatile and fascinating plant with a long history of use in various fields, from natural dyeing to traditional medicine. As consumers become more interested in sustainable and natural products, the demand for Wild Madder is likely to increase, and the plant's potential as a source of natural antioxidants and potential cancer treatment may also be explored further. Overall, Wild Madder is a plant with many exciting possibilities, both cultural and practical.

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Reproduced by kind permission of the BSBI.

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