FIELD MADDER

Sherardia arvensis

Bedstraw Family [Rubiaceae]  

month8May month8jun month8june month8jul month8july month8Aug month8sep month8sept

status
statusZnative
flower
flower8pink flower8lilac flower8mauve
morph
morph8actino
petals
petalsZ4
stem
stem8square
stem
stem8ribbed

3rd May 2017, a park, Waterloo, Sefton Coast Photo: © RWD
Plan view. A mass of flowers on still-growing plants.


3rd May 2017, a park, Waterloo, Sefton Coast Photo: © RWD
Each stem is bifurcated several times, but unlike those of Keeled-fruited Cornsalad, it is the main thicker stem which continues, whilst thinner branches branch off at intervals. At each junction a whorl of leaves. At each termination a bunch of flowers shrouded by a ruff of leaf-like bracts.


8th June 2005, Hay Dale, Monsall Head, Derbyshire. Photo: © RWD
A more mature specimen where the extra time has allowed the stems to elongate between the whorls of leaves.


3rd May 2017, a park, Waterloo, Sefton Coast Photo: © RWD
The whorls have been bent out of shape into a flattened circle around the stem because these specimens were sprawling along the ground (until your Author moved it to get a better photo).


3rd May 2017, a park, Waterloo, Sefton Coast Photo: © RWD
It is a low-growing plant from 10cm to 30cm in length, sometimes sprawling as here.


3rd May 2017, a park, Waterloo, Sefton Coast Photo: © RWD
Flowers in stalked clusters with between 4 and 10 flowers nestling in the ruff of bracts.


3rd May 2017, a park, Waterloo, Sefton Coast Photo: © RWD
Leaf-like bracts surround the bunch of flowers, but it looks like the lowest whorl are actually leaves. The flowers have a long tapering tube like a trumpet to get them at the same height as the tips of the bracts. The bracts have white hairs, but forwardly directed (rather than backwardly directed of the stem hairs).


3rd May 2017, a park, Waterloo, Sefton Coast Photo: © RWD
Like all bedstraws the flowers have 4 petals and 4 stamens.


3rd May 2017, a park, Waterloo, Sefton Coast Photo: © RWD
The four anthers, which nestle in the four corners of the square flower-opening, are very dark in colour but with white pollen.


3rd May 2017, a park, Waterloo, Sefton Coast Photo: © RWD
A white style extends outwards from the centre of the flower before bifurcating near the end into two pale-pink stigmas.


3rd May 2017, a park, Waterloo, Sefton Coast Photo: © RWD
The leaves are in whorls of 4 to 6 and turn bright red when under stress.


3rd May 2017, a park, Waterloo, Sefton Coast Photo: © RWD
The leaves are between 5 and 18mm long with forwardly-directed prickles on the edges and longer hairs on the upper surface.


8th June 2005, Hay Dale, Monsall Head, Derbyshire. Photo: © RWD
The stems are square in cross-section with downwardly-directed short stiff hairs.


3rd May 2017, a park, Waterloo, Sefton Coast Photo: © RWD
Ridges and grooves in the square stem, which has rough hairs. The leaves sometimes taper to a slight point.


3rd May 2017, a park, Waterloo, Sefton Coast Photo: © RWD
The stem, although square, actually have ridges on each corner and shallow grooves down the centre. Your Author thinks that the the object near the centre just above the whorl of leaves is a lone persistent sepal tube having 4 sepals with a pair of rough-to-touch nutlets within (?). (The sepal tube in Field Madder surrounds only a tiny fraction the length of the much longer and tapering tube at the rear of the flower - which is why you can't see the sepal tube in the flower photos it is hidden deep down by the bracts surrounding the flowers).


8th June 2005, Hay Dale, Monsall Head, Derbyshire. Photo: © RWD
Your Author does not know what these clusters of 6 tiny opjects arranged in circles are, but the flowers seem to have vacated these leaf-like bracts so maybe they are the nutlets (?).

Field Madder is native, growing near the coast especially, but is also a common arable weed especially on sandy soils. Also likes dry, disturbed ground such as poor grasslands, sheltered rocky places and dunes. Distributed mostly along the coasts or inland but mainly avoiding Scotland. Apart from the coasts it tends to prefer further east when inland. Your Author found it recently in the corner between pavement and walls in a park at Waterloo, Sefton Coast, but apart from when he first espied it in the White Peaks over a decade ago, those are the only two occasions he has ever set eyes upon it.

It has fleshy roots from which a rosy-red/pink dye can be extracted, but the roots are much less bulky than those of Madder (Rubia tinctorum) from which (other?) dyes were much more frequently produced. The two plants are not in the same Genus, so their chemistry will also probably differ.

Some similarities to: Squinancywort, in that both have square stems, both have four pink to lilac petals and both belong to the Bedstraw Family. Squinancywort looks more like a sprawling bedstraw. Field Madder is totally alone in the Sherardia genus.

Not to be confused with: Wild Madder (Rubia peregrina) nor to Madder (Rubia tinctoria) which although are in the same family, are in a differing Genus.


  Sherardia arvensis  ⇐ Global Aspect ⇒ Rubiaceae  

Distribution
family8bedstraw family8Rubiaceae

 BSBI maps
genus8Sherardia
Sherardia
(Field Madder)

FIELD MADDER

Sherardia arvensis

Bedstraw Family [Rubiaceae]  

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