En EspaŅol
Share

Ask Mr. Smarty Plants

Mr. Smarty Plants - Searching for a dye made from a French weed

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

Identification of a cucumber-like vine with fruit
November 16, 2011 - We found tiny, grape-size white melon-like fruit on a vine, with tomato-like/cucumber-like seeds. The leaves on the vine were similar to grape or cucumber leaves, but not spiny. They were behind our...
view the full question and answer

Pink flower in South Carolina, perhaps poisonous
July 09, 2008 - I saw a beautiful plant while touring Charleston, SC. I do not remember the name - the tour guide talked about a long time ago women giving it to their husband's in tea (maybe?) to kill them. Of co...
view the full question and answer

Identification of plant from childhood
April 23, 2011 - I am trying to locate and identify a plant from my childhood (I'm 65). It was either a small tree or possibly a tree formed hedge like plant. It had small roundish leaves scattered on tiny limbs simi...
view the full question and answer

Name of epiphyte growing on oak trees
June 15, 2006 - Please tell me what the epiphyte growing on the oak trees is.
view the full question and answer

Plant Identification
June 23, 2011 - I live in Alaska and have TEENY cute 5 petaled white flowers growing on my lawn. They are very short, maybe 2 inches in height. The flower is about 1/2 inch wide. They look like a perfect tiny daisy. ...
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