3. Rubia chinensis Regel & Maack in Regel, Tent. Fl. Ussur. 76. 1861.
中国茜草 zhong guo qian cao
Herbs, perennial, rhizomatous; stems erect, to 60 cm tall, solitary or usually grouped, unbranched or few branched, quadrangular, glabrous to pilosulous at least near nodes, ribs rounded, smooth to sparsely scaberulous. Leaves in whorls of 4; petiole (0.3-)0.5-2 cm; blade drying thinly papery, ovate, oblong-ovate, or broadly elliptic, 3-10 × 1.2-4.5 cm, length/ breadth index 1.8-2.3, adaxially subglabrous and scaberulous, abaxially glabrous to pilosulous, base obtuse, rounded, or cordulate, margin scaberulous to ciliate, apex acute or acuminate; principal veins 5 or 7, palmate. Inflorescences thyrsoid, terminal and axillary in upper nodes, paniculate, many flowered, 5-30 cm, glabrous to pilosulous; axes scaberulous to smooth; bracts lanceolate, 1.5-8 mm; pedicels 2-7 mm. Ovary ca. 0.8 mm, smooth to scaberulous. Corolla greenish white, rotate, 3-4 mm in diam., glabrous, with fused base 0.2-0.6 mm; lobes 5, lanceolate, 1.7-2 mm, acute to caudate. Mericarp berry black, ca. 4 mm in diam., smooth. Fl. May-Jul, fr. Sep-Oct.
Forests on mountains, forest margins, meadows; 200-1400 m. E and N China [Japan, Korea, Russia].
Rubia chinensis and a few related species with erect (not climbing) stems and broad leaves with short petioles have been placed by Pojarkova (Fl. URSS 23: 391-392. 1958) into R. ser. Chinenses. Other Chinese species of this group include the closely related R. latipetala and R. schumanniana. The R. mandersii species group (see there) is similar but has sessile leaves.
For Rubia chinensis H. S. Lo (in FRPS 71(2): 301, t. 66, f. 8-13. 1999) gives good drawings and differentiates two varieties (elsewhere also treated as forms). They are listed here for reference but apparently are not well marked in China. They were not included in the Fl. Hebei. (2: 577. 1988), and in Fl. Japan (Yamazaki, 3a: 231-232. 1993) they were synonymized and said to be difficult to distinguish. Generally, it appears that Japanese populations of R. chinensis have somewhat smaller leaves than those from China.