En EspaŅol

Q. Who is Mr. Smarty Plants?

A: There are those who suspect Wildflower Center volunteers are the culpable and capable culprits. Yet, others think staff members play some, albeit small, role. You can torture us with your plant questions, but we will never reveal the Green Guru's secret identity.

Help us grow by giving to the Plant Database Fund or by becoming a member

Did you know you can access the Native Plant Information Network with your web-enabled smartphone?

Share

Ask Mr. Smarty Plants

Ask Mr. Smarty Plants is a free service provided by the staff and volunteers at the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center.

Search Smarty Plants
    
 
See a list of all Smarty Plants questions
Can't find the answer in our existing FAQs, submit a question to Mr. Smarty Plants.
Need help with plant identification, visit the plant identification page.
 
rate this answer
Not Yet Rated

Tuesday - June 09, 2009

From: Ogden, UT
Region: Rocky Mountain
Topic: Plant Identification
Title: Searching for a dye made from a French weed
Answered by: Nan Hampton

QUESTION:

Dear Mr smarty plants, I watched a gardening show on cable and they talked about a place in France where they use a weed called Wod to make dye and dye fabric and several other items to sell. It was fascinating and I wanted to learn more about this weed and the dying process. Or even where in France they make this dye, and if you can purchase their products. Have you ever heard of this plant? They said Marys' dress was dyed with this color, it is very long lasting and does not fade. I hope you can give me some information on this. Thank you so much,

ANSWER:

Mr. Smarty Plants thinks he has found your plant.  You can read a fascinating history (by Professor Arthur C. Gibson, who teaches a course on economic botany at UCLA) of Isatis tinctoria (Woad), a European member of the Family Brassicaceae (Mustard Family), the plant used for blue dyes for centuries in Europe. Not only was it used for dyeing fabrics but also was used in the British Isles as a body dye to frighten foes.  (Remember Mel Gibson's facepaint in the movie "Braveheart"?)  There is another website called The Woad Page that gives more history of the dye and its uses. There are also links to suppliers of woad powder in France and in England on this page as well as instructions for making the dye from the plants and dyeing with it.  Now that you know the correct spelling of its name you can probably find U.S. sources for woad powder by googling on the name.  Or, you could collect and make your own dye since Isatis tinctoria (Dyer's woad), though not native, grows and is considered invasive over most of the western United States, including Utah where it is appears on the Utah State-listed Noxious Weeds. Here is link to photos from University of California-Berkeley's CalPhotos site.

 

 

 

More Plant Identification Questions

Giant Thistle-Like Plant from Elgin, TX
June 01, 2014 - I have a giant thistle like plant in my field we have been unable to identify. It looks like a milk thistle but it is short..only about a foot tall..stocky...and the flowers are giant..about 6 to 8 i...
view the full question and answer

Identification of shrub with red berries in Kentucky
January 14, 2012 - I live in Laurel CO, KY. I am trying to identify a shrub/tree. The leaves are green and may turn reddish orange. There are huge pods of red berries hanging.
view the full question and answer

Plant identification
June 16, 2012 - Hello Mr. Smarty Plants: We conducted an Internet search to find a name for a plant we have that has 2 opposing leaves on stalks, and is starting to grow a purple flower in the middle, near the groun...
view the full question and answer

Plant identification, possibly Actaea rubra, red baneberry
August 06, 2008 - I came across a plant that has leaves similar to the astillbe shrub, stands about 3 feet high, and instead of a flower spire, has a chunk of bright red berries the size of medium-sized pearls atop its...
view the full question and answer

Plant Identification
June 07, 2009 - Having great difficulty identifying a perennial plant. Although it looks marvelous (coming in two shades), I haven't been able to correctly identify it. Local college feels it is Eupatorium Rugosum, ...
view the full question and answer

Smarty Plants's Facebook profile Support the Wildflower Center by Donating Online or Becoming a Member today.

Mr. Smarty Plants wants you to be his Facebook friend. Click the Facebook icon to add yourself to Mr. Smarty Plants list of friends.
E-NEWSLETTER | BECOME A MEMBER | DONATE NOW | MEDIA | SITEMAP
© 2014 Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center