Rubiaceae : Madder Family


Scientific Name:

Kingdom: Plantae


Class: Dicoteldonae (two seed-leaves)

Family: Rubiaceae

Genera: 1

Species: 2

Galium boreal (Northern Bedstraw)

Galium trifidum (Small Bedstraw)

English Name(s):

Madder Family

Gwich'in Name:

Family Traits


  • North American members of this family are small plants with squarish stalks and whorled leaves.
  • Flowers tiny, perfect (bisexual), regular in symmetry.
  • Sepals 4-5, separate.
  • Petals 4-5 united.
  • Stamens (male parts) 4-5.
  • Ovaries usually inferior, with 2 or rarely 4, united carpels (chambers) with partition walls present.
  • Fruit a capsule or berry with numerous seeds. (Galium is different see Genus info below.)

Natural History:

  • Most species in this family are tropical. Florida has the highest number of species from this family in North America.
  • Coffea or Coffee Plant is in this family.
  • Cinchona which produces the anti-malarial alkaloid quinine is also in this family.

Family Size:


Genera: 500 (approx.)

Species: 6000-7000

North America:

Genera: 20

Species: ?


Genera: 1

Species: 5

Illustrated Key To Family

Note: Move cursor over image for note on what to look for. Click on image to enlarge.

Galium boreal (Northern Bedstraw)

Galium trifidum (Small Bedstraw)

Dicotomous Key To Family

  • A: Plant stout, stifly erect, tufted: Galium boreal (Northern Bedstraw)
  • A: Plant weak and slender, of often matted growth: Galium trifidum (Small Bedstraw)


Galium (Bedstraw, Cleavers)

  • Plants slender perennial, herbaceous (not woody).
  • Stems 4-angled (squarish).
  • Leaves whorled (around stem).
  • Inflorescence (flower clusters) few flowered, lateral or terminal cymes.
  • Flowers tiny.
  • Sepals obsolete (not present).
  • Petals 3-4 lobed, greenish to bright white.
  • Stamens usually 4.
  • Ovaries inferior.
  • Fruit globular, bristly or smooth, when ripe dividing into 2, dry, indehiscent (separating), mericarps (seed-like halves).

World= 300

N.A.= 78

Yukon= 5

Central Yukon= 2

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