Monday, December 28, 2009

Madder munjeet and family: time for a revision of Rubia sp.?

Several plants in the genus Rubia are known for the dyeing properties of their roots. Throughout history many variant qualities have been noticed, but commercial quality is hard to tie to distinct species. Not only soil properties and growing conditions are clearly huge influences, also adulterants were much more common in historical reports.
For a modern artcle on Rubia adultery, see this comparison between R. cordifolia and R. tinctorum

Nevertheless, it could be interesting to investigate the chemotaxonomical variety of Rubia sp. Most known are the 'common' (European) madder (Rubia tinctorium), the 'wild madder' (Rubia peregrina) and the 'Indian' madder, called 'munjeet' (Rubia cordifolia).

Also other Rubia sp. yield red dyes, and other Rubiaceae yield dyes, all from root material.
Recent reports show that characteristical flavonoids known from Rubia tinctorium might also be present in Rubia cordifolia, suggesting that chemical variation in R. cordifolia could be an argument for seperating some plants in a new species.
On the other hand, one could argue that all three species have long been used as culture plants. There is an unfortunate lack of research in what respect the breeding of different cultotypes during the heighday of the cultivation and their subsequent reintegration into the 'wild' species have augmented to the variation of the original species. Would it still be possible to recognize old races, and could that explain the variation (and similarities) between Rubia species?

No comments:

Post a Comment