One of the mysteries of the English language finally explained.
Of, relating to, or designating the family Rubiaceae, a large and diverse family of flowering plants chiefly native to warm climates, of which madder (genus Rubia) is the type, and which also includes coffee (genus Coffea), and the quinine-producing cinchona.
Early 19th century; earliest use found in Philosophical Magazine. From scientific Latin Rubiaceae, family name (A. L. Jussieu Genera plantarum 196; compare French rubiacées, plural noun; from Rubia, genus name (Linnaeus Species plantarum I. 109), specific use of classical Latin rubia red dye, madder, or the plant producing it + -aceae: see -aceous) + -ous.
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