Madder (Rubia tinctorum) is a perennial herb native to the eastern Mediterranean and Central Asia. It’s the most important source of “true” red in plant dyeing. Madder root has been used as a natural dye for more than 5,000 years and was cultivated as early as 1500 B.C. Madder was used as a coloring source by the Persians, Egyptians, Greeks, and Romans, and was generally used for all red textiles before it was supplanted by synthetic dyes in the early 20th century. Traces of madder used as dye have been found in King Tutankhamun’s tomb, in burial grounds in Scandinavia, and even in the ruins of Pompeii and ancient Corinth. The first American flags were most likely dyed with madder root or a combination of madder and cochineal — a beetle-sourced red dye originating in South and Central America.
This plant was at one time widely cultivated for the red dye obtained from its roots, this dye is now manufactured chemically