This section is from the book "British Wild Flowers - In Their Natural Haunts Vol2-4", by A. R. Horwood. Also available from Amazon: A British Wild Flowers In Their Natural Haunts.
Found to-day (with no earlier records) in Europe, North Africa, and Siberia, Field Madder is a North Temperate Zone species. It is found in every part of Great Britain, except in Main Argyle, N. Ebudes, and the Shetlands.
Field Madder is a typical cornfield weed, which is seldom found elsewhere, except it be on ground allowed to lie fallow, once corn land. It is especially common on sand soil, and is widespread in the south on the chalk soils, but is abundant also in the Midlands and elsewhere. It is found with Corn Buttercup, Fumitory, Poppies, Charlock, Spurrey, Shepherd's Needle, Lamb's Lettuce, etc.
Having much the same habit as Woodruff, but being more branched, and lying flat or erect at one end, the stems are rough and square. The lower leaves are in 8's or 4's. The branches are quite rough. The upper leaves are 5 - 6, narrowly elliptic, and the lower ones are blunt with a sharp point at the tip. and often opposite.
The flowers, which are lilac or pink, are in terminal umbels. The calyx-teeth are 4 - 6, and the calyx does not fall off. The corolla is funnel-shaped with a slender tube. The involucral leaves are 7 - 8.
The corolla is united into a tube. The simple anthers are pale purple.
I he fruit is oblong, divided longitudinally, containing 2 seeds, which are oblong, concavo-convex, with 3 points.
Field Madder is about 6 in. high. The flowers bloom from April to September. The plant is annual or biennial, highly worth cultivating, and reproduced by seeds.
The flowers resemble those of Woodruff, but are lilac in tint. They are gynodioecious. Though they are small they are numerous, and from association are the more conspicuous. The anthers or the stigmas may mature first. Self-pollination occurs. Flies visit the flowers.
The fruit is provided with a fringe of hairs on the teeth of the calyx, which enlarge after flowering, and is hairy, and dispersed by animals.
Field Madder is a sand plant, growing in a sand soil, but may be found commonly on lime soils.
Peronospora calotheca is a microscopic fungus that infests it. The Humming-bird Hawk-moth, Phragmatobia fuliginosa, and Melanippe cristata feed upon this pretty prostrate flower.
Sherardia, Dillenius, is a commemoration of Dr. Sherard, a native of Bushby in Leicestershire, b. 1659. The second Latin name indicates its preference for cultivated land.
This plant is called Allison, Dodger, Herb Sherard, Field Madder, Madderlen, Spurwort.
Essential Specific Characters: 144. Sherardia arvensis, L. - Stem spreading, branched, prostrate, leaves 6 in a whorl, lanceolate, obovate, acute, flowers lilac, in a terminal umbel, calyx 4-fid, fruit small.