from The Century Dictionary and Cyclopedia

  • A very natural and distinct order of gamopetalous plants, of the cohort Rubiales, typified by the genus Rubia.
  • The flowers are commonly perfect, regular, and symmetrical, the corolla most frequently salverform or wheel-shaped, often funnelform or bell-shaped, usually with equal valvate lobes; the stamens borne upon the corolla-tube, of the same number as its lobes and alternate with them, the anthers two-celled and usually oblong-linear; the ovary, which is crowned with a disk, one- to ten-celled, with one or more, commonly very numerous, ovules in each cell. The fruit is from one- to ten-celled, capsular or fleshy, or separating into nutlets, the seeds with fleshy or corneous albumen. The order is one of the largest among flowering plants, containing about 4,500 species of 373 genera and 25 tribes, and surpassed only by the Compositæ, Leguminosæ, and Orchideæ. The most important tribes are Cinchoneæ, Naucleæ, Rondeletieæ, Hedyotideæ, Mussændeæ, Gardenieæ Ixoreæ, Morindeæ, Psychotrieæ, Pæderieæ, Spermacoceæ, and Galieæ. The species are more abundant in America, and are all tropical except two tribes, the Galieæ of the northern and the Anthospermeæ of the southern hemisphere. They are trees, shrubs, or herbs, and exhibit great variety of habit, being either erect, prostrate, or climbing, and sometimes thorny, but have remarkable uniformity of leaf-structure, varying from the entire-and opposite-leafed type in but very few cases. Stipules are well-nigh universal, and very various, being inter- or intra-petiolar, simple or two-cleft or -divided, free or united with the petiole, etc.; in the tribe Galieæ resembling the leaves, and with them making out a whorl. The flowers are very often dimorphous or trimorphous in the length of their stamens and pistils; and in some genera they are capitately disposed, giving rise to a syncarpous fruit through the union of their calyxes. Some genera—as Bouvardia and Gardenia—contain ornamental plants, and several supply important products, Coffea yielding coffee, and Cinchona the cinchona-bark; while Rubia (the type) contains the madder-plant, whence the order is often called the madder family.


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