A member of the Bedstraw family, Field madder (Sherardia arvensis) is a low-growing annual that supposedly grows in both disturbed and cultivated ground on chalky soils. I write ‘supposedly’ because the Field madder pictured here grows along a sheltered damp and mossy road verge next to blocks of flats. Also, I’ve read – and my wildflower book states – that Field madder can grow up to 30cm tall but the plants I’ve seen have been tiny, only 5-10 cm. I guess wildflowers don’t read what’s written about them!
Popping out like stars against a dense background of bristly whorls of leaves, the clusters of four-petalled tiny flowers range in colour from pale pink to mauve. And, as you may have guessed from the name, the roots of Field madder can be used to make a red dye, though it is described as ‘an inferior source’ on the Oxford University Herbaria website. If you’re interested in learning more, the website also explains the source of the Sherardia name.
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