Welsh, Gwreiddrudd, Cochwraidd. - French, Garance. - German, Krapp. - Spanish, Rubia. - Arabic, Fooah.


Tetrandria. Monogynia.


Ricbiaceae. Stellatece.

The wild madder {Rubia perigrina), our only British species, does not possess the brilliant dyeing qualities of the cultivated R. tinctorum, though the colouring-matter afforded by its roots is by no means to be despised; it is, however, a rare and capricious plant, and the expenses of collecting it would probably so greatly exceed its value, that it will never be regularly used as an article of commerce. It occurs, though sparingly, in the Isle of Wight, and reappears on the mild southern shores of Devonshire and Cornwall, extending up the coast line of Wales, as far north as to the island of Anglesea, probably the farthest limit influenced by the warm and genial atmosphere accompanying the course of the small ocean current known as Rennel's. The madder is a remarkably handsome, shrubby plant, whose angular, toothed, and quaint-looking stems, and dark, sparkling, shining, and serrated leaves, more than compensate for the absence of any striking beauty in its inconspicuous and dimly-yellow flowers. It is to be regretted that it is not more frequently cultivated as an ornamental plant, as will, I think, be acknowledged by any one who remembers his feelings of admiration on first discovering it growing wild.

Perhaps the greatest objection to it in gardens may arise from its losing not only its leaves in winter, but also the greater part of its stems, which, however, shoot out again into their fine, long, trailing habit, very early in the succeeding summer. In the middle ages madder was known by the name of varantia, a word corrupted from veran-tia, as being pre-eminently the genuine dye; and which, as probably originating in the words verus aurantia, true golden yellow, is a curious, though by no means rare, example of a name expressive of a quality being retained and differently applied, long after its original sense has been lost sight of.

Wild Madder.   Rubia perigrina.

Wild Madder. - Rubia perigrina.

The madder, as is well known, is the most invaluable dye for calicoes ever discovered, as it not only yields a fine rosy, or somewhat crimson-red to cold water or spirit, and a rich red-brown to hot water, but also gives every shade of lilac, purple, pink, and red, or even of yellow and brown, according to the mordant through which the cloth has been passed before immersing it in the madder-tubs. To linen it does not impart its colour so well. So subtle is this dye, that the bones of animals fed on the plant are quickly tinged with the colouring-matter, and if the food be long continued, this even becomes permanent.

The following remarks by Professor Robert Hunt, shew how materially in this, and countless other cases, modern science economises old, as well as discovers new, articles of chemical or other commercial importance. "The spent madder has been for years accumulating in the calico works. A chemist proving that these heaps of refuse still contained one third of the original quantity of the colouring-matter, shewed how it could be readily extracted; and these are now become new sources of wealth." The principal export of madder is from Holland, Zealand, etc, but its cultivation is largely increasing on the Rhine, where an excellent qualitity is said to be produced.

The use of madder as a pigment, more especially in miniature, or other flesh painting, is well known, but it was only so lately as in the year 1804, that Sir H. C. Englefield claimed, and obtained, the medal of the "Society for Encouraging the Arts," for the discovery of its application to this purpose.*

In the "EdinburghPharmacopoeia"madder is indicated as an ingredient in a decoction for the cure of jaundice, and it was formerly much valued as an emmenagogue, but it is now rarely employed medicinally.

* See Burnett's "Encyclopaedia of Ornamental Plants," etc.