Rubia cordifolia L.


Rubia cordifolia L.




Rubia munjista Roxb., Rubia javana DC., Rubia mitis Miq.

Vernacular Names


Indian madder.


Letah meong (Sundanese), kletak (Javanese).

Philippines Kamagut, mankit (Igorot), pantig-pantig (Bagobo).
Vietnam Thiên can

Geographical Distributions

Rubia cordifolia has an extremely large area of distribution, ranging from Africa through Central Asia to the Soviet Union, India, Japan, China, Indo-China, Malaysia (Sabah), the Philippines, parts of Indonesia (Sumatra, Java), and northern Australia.


Rubia cordifolia is an extremely variable species. It is a climbing or creeping herb that can reach up to 10 m long. Its rootstock is perennial, with long roots, cylindrical and zigzags with thin red bark. The stem is with long internodes, quadrangular, sometimes prickly or hispid and often hairless.

The leaves are simple, in whorls of (2-)4(-8), with cordate to (narrowly) ovate leaf blade, measuring 2.5-10 cm x 1-4 cm, with 3-9-palmate veins, cordate or rounded at the base, acute or acuminate at the apex, entire and with smooth or retrorsely scabrid or hairy or strigose surface. The petiole is usually long, and measuring 5-8 cm but sometimes as short as 0.5 cm.

The flowers are in axillary and terminal cymes, trichotomously branching, with long-peduncled panicles, measuring 3.5-4.5 mm in diametre, with variable color from greenish-white to purple-red and (4-)5-merous. The stamens are epipetalous. The ovary is inferior, 2-celled and with 2 styles.

The fruit is a spherical or 2-lobed berry, 1-2-seeded, measuring 4-5 mm x 3.5-5 mm, and bluish-black but sometimes red or purple.

Ecology / Cultivation

The vast area over which Rubia cordifolia occurs indicates its adaptability. In Southeast Asia, it occurs mostly in humid areas, 500—2500 m above sea level, mostly in secondary vegetation.

Line Drawing / Photograph


Read More

  1) Western Herb

  2) South Africa Herbs

  3) Ayuverda


  1. Plant Resources of South-East Asia No. 3: Dye and tannin-producing plants.