Rubia tinctorum, the common madder or dyer’s madder, is an herbaceous perennial plant species belonging to the bedstraw and coffee family Rubiaceae. The plant is native to Southeastern Europe, Western Asia, and North Africa, but was early on introduced to the Central and Northwestern Europe where it became naturalized. Some of the well-known names of the plants are Alizarin, Common madder, Dyer’s madder, European madder, madder and Indian Madder. The name Rubia is from the Latin word ruber meaning red, referring to the red dye from the plant’s roots.
Madder makes a permanent red dye called Turkey red that has been used traditionally to color Turkish fezzes, soldiers’ uniforms, and hunting jackets. Madder root is a natural source of red, pink, orange, apricot, lilac, purple, brown, and black shades of dye, ink, and paint. The plant was originally exported from Turkey for cultivation in the main textile centers of Northern Europe. In 1868, alizarin, the main pigment in madder root, was synthesized from coal tar, thus reducing market demand for the natural material. Madder is still used as a red dye in textiles.