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?


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


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,


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

Identity of plant in Kentucky with fuzzy grayish-green leaves
September 03, 2012 - I would like to know about a plant that I do not know what it is. I had this plant just come up in my flowerbed, that looked like a tobacco plant but the leaves looked like a lambs ear plant. It was ...
view the full question and answer

Identification of a vine with red berries in Weatherford, Texas
October 17, 2014 - I have found a vine with red berries that I would appreciate an ID for. How can I send you a photo or two of it?
view the full question and answer

Plant identfication
October 21, 2009 - Hi...Can you please identfy the tall, evergreen shrub with purple plum-colored foliage that I have noticed in winter locally?...Hope so, need he color! THX
view the full question and answer

Plant Identification
March 11, 2009 - Hello. I don't know if this is a North American native plant, but here's my question: I have a soft, low groundcover that looks like a miniature version of Foxtail Fern. Lowe's folks suggested it m...
view the full question and answer

Is there an App for that?
June 05, 2012 - Do you have an app like leafsnap that my students can use to identify the plants around our school? I would like them to take a picture of the leaf of each plant with their iPads and have your data b...
view the full question and answer

Support the Wildflower Center by Donating Online or Becoming a Member today.
© 2015 Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center