A funny thing happened in the madder patch…

This morning I gave the madder a closer than usual look.  The weather has turned toward autumn here, so I expected the madder to look a little leafier, and it really doesn’t.  I found snails–which is normal–and then I found this, which is a first…


That, my friends, is a bigger than average caterpillar, and I have no idea what it might become in the fullness of time.  And through being full of madder leaves.  It has at least one friend/relative.  So I decided not to remove all the stems for now and let the caterpillars munch what remains of the madder leaves until they transform.  I’m still pondering whether to dig roots and try them as I think this plant must be getting up toward 3 years old now!


Filed under Dye Plants

5 responses to “A funny thing happened in the madder patch…

  1. Curiouser and curiouser. Do you think it will survive being munched on like that? Is madder pretty hardy or is it on the delicate side?


    • Madder is very hardy in my opinion–positively invasive. But mine has hardly a leaf left. We’re down to stems! This won’t kill the plant, though, most of it is underground and it’s putting up new leaves and sprouts constantly at present I think (though they are being mown down just as quickly). I found at least 8 of these caterpillars, including a baby about 2.5 cm long (and green) on the weekend, just on the madder. I suspect they’ll be out and about looking for other things to eat very soon. My father was round on the weekend and couldn’t say what butterfly these critters produce and I don’t know either.


    • I agree, These look exactly right. So our caterpillar is Hippotion scrofa, one of the local hawk moths. Wait ’til I tell my Dad! Thanks for your research efforts. I had looked but not succeeded in finding anything that looked right at all.


  2. Pingback: Madder dyeing | Local & Bespoke

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