Madder Family

Goose Grass © AFengler

Coffee Family
Rubiaceae (roo-bi-A-see-ee)

Iconic Features

  • Leaves simple and entire 
  • Leaves opposite or whorled
  • Small star-shaped flowers
  • Ovary usually inferior

Description (Jepson)

  • Eudicotyledons (eudicots) – a major lineage of flowering plants including most plants traditionally described as dicots and generally characterized by
    • 2 seed leaves (dicotyledon)
    • Netted (reticulate) leaf venation
    • Flower parts in fours and fives
    • Pollen grains with 3 pores (tricolpate)
    • Vascular bundles in stem arranged in a ring
    • Taproot system
  • Annual and perennial herbs and shrubs (some trees and vines)
  • Stems sometimes square
  • Leaves
    • Simple (not divided into leaflets) and entire (with smooth margins)
    • Usually opposite (2 leaves at each junction with stem) or whorled (3 or more leaves/flowers at stem junction)
  • Flowers
    • Inflorescence (flower arrangement) in a great variety of forms
    • Small, usually bisexual, star-shaped flowers
    • Flower parts usually in fours
    • Ovary usually inferior (below the attachment of other flower parts)
  • Fruit is a drupe (a fleshy fruit with usually 1 seed in a hard inner shell — a stone fruit), berry (a usually multi-seeded fruit with a fleshy ovary wall), or nutlet (a small, dry fruit that does not split open, derived from a multi-chambered ovary)


  • Approximately 6,000 species worldwide
    • Includes bedstraws, coffee species, gardenias, and Cinchona species (source of quinine)
  • Scientific name from the included genus Rubia, from the Latin for “red”
    • Rubia species were extensively cultivated in the past as the source of a commercially important red dye, commonly called madder
  • Represented by 6 species at Edgewood

See General References

Browse Some Edgewood Plants in this Family