Madder (Family Rubiaceae)

 

Rubiaceae is a family of flowering plants, variously called the Madder
Family, Bedstraw Family or Coffee Family. Common plants included
are gardenia, cinchona (whose bark contains quinine), sweet woodruff,
partridgeberry, gambier, ixora, and noni. A number of traditionally
accepted families (Dialypetalanthaceae, Henriqueziaceae, Naucleaceae,
and Theligonaceae) are now incorporated within Family Rubiaceae.
Currently, there are about 611 genera and more than 13,000 species in
Rubiaceae. It is the fifth largest family of flowering plants by number of
genera, and the fourth or fifth largest by number of species.

 

Species of Family Rubiaceae are concentrated in warmer and tropical
climates around the world.

 

The most economically important member of the family, and the world's
second most important commodity (after petroleum) are the two species
of shrub Coffea canephora (also known as Coffea robusta) and Coffea
arabica, used in the production of coffee.

 

The bark of trees in the genus Cinchona is the source of a variety of alka-
loids, the most familiar of which is quinine, one of the first agents effec-

tive in treating malaria. Woodruff (Galium odoratum) is a small herb-

aceous perennial that contains coumarin—a natural precursor of warfarin

—and the South American plant Psychotria ipecacuanha is the source of the
emetic ipecac. Psychotria viridis is frequently used as a source of
dimethyltryptamine in the preparation of ayahuasca, a psychoactive
decoction.

 

Originally from China, the common gardenia (Gardenia jasminoides) is

a widely grown garden plant and flower in frost-free climates worldwide.
Several other species from the genus are also seen in horticulture. The
genus Ixora also contains plants seen cultivated in warmer climate gardens.
The New Zealand native Coprosma repens is a commonly used plant for
hedges. The south African Rothmannia globosa is seen as a specimen tree
in horticulture.

 

Rose madder, the crushed root of Rubia tinctorum, yields a red dye, and
the tropical Morinda citrifolia yields a yellow dye.

 

 

Back to Inventory of Shrub Families and Species

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