Madder / Coffee Family

Goose Grass © AFengler

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