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Rubia tinctorum L.
Colors Obtained
Purple, Crimson, Apricot Color, Red-brown, Vermilion
Dye Ingredients
Alizarin, pseudopurpurin
Madder is a perennial shrub that grows during the summer. In winter, the upper parts of the plant die, but in the spring, from its branching roots, new shoots appear. These can grow to five feet as crawling or climbing branches that have many small thorns on their square stems. The leaves grow in whorls of 4 to 6 , are lancet-shaped, 1/3 to 1 inch wide and 1 to 5 inches long. The inconspicuous flowers are yellow and develop pea-size deep violet to black berries. Madder thrives best on fertile, not too dry soil and has roots that grow more than three feet deep. The finger-thick roots contain the dyestuffs. These are anthraquinones, usually bound to a sugar (glucose), and therefore called glycosides.  Anatolia was probably the original home of madder, but the natural distribution includes the Caucasus, Iran , western Central Asia as far as the northwestern Himalayas .