Rent Shop Volunteer Join

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

Please forgive us, but Mr. Smarty Plants has been overwhelmed by a flood of mail and must take a break for awhile to catch up. We hope to be accepting new questions again soon. Thank you!

Need help with plant identification, visit the plant identification page.

 
rate this answer
1 rating

Saturday - October 07, 2006

From: Austin, TX
Region: Southwest
Topic: Edible Plants
Title: Plants for making dyes for organic cotton
Answered by: Nan Hampton

QUESTION:

Looking to dye my own organic cotton for my new line of organic clothing and I want to grow the plants for making the dyes in my own garden. Any suggestions?

ANSWER:

Delena Tull in her book, Edible and Useful Plants of Texas and the Southwest: A Practical Guide (University of Texas Press, 1999) has an excellent section called "Colorful Dyes with Texas Plants" in which she lists notable Texas dye plants along with an indication of the brilliance of the color and resistance to fading. She also has information about whether the dye needs a mordant and, especially important, whether the plant has toxic qualities that you need to be aware of. Most of the plants she lists are Texas natives, but she does list some non-natives (e.g., Common mullein (Verbascum thapsus)) that have been introduced and are now commonly found in the state. You can check the nativity of the plants she lists by searching in our Native Plants Database or the USDA Plants Database. Here is a short list of some of the plants she lists that do well in the Austin area:

Prickly pear (Opuntia engelmannii) red, magenta, or tan depending on dyeing method
Turk's cap (Malvaviscus arboreus) peach, mauve, or tan depending on dyeing method and mordant
Agarita (Mahonia trifoliolata syn. Berberis trifoliolata) yields yellow to yellow-orange
Bitterweed (Tetraneuris scaposa syn. Hymenoxys scaposa) yellow dye
Bluebonnet (Lupinus texensis) light lime green
Old man’s beard (Clematis drummondii) golden brown, brown or yellow depending on the plant part used
Goldenrod (Solidago spp.) a range of colors from yellow, orange, tan, olive and gray depending on the plant part and mordant used
Greenbriar (Smilax bona-nox) grays, greens, yellows, and reds depending the plant part and mordant used
Pokeweed (Phytolacca americana) pink, orange, red, blue and black depending on mordant and dyeing method

These are only a few of the plants listed in the book. Many trees (such as oaks, pecans, and walnuts) that grow in Austin have material that make good dyes as well.

 

More Edible Plants Questions

Edible plants native to Bexar County, Texas
July 30, 2008 - What types of edible plants are native to Bexar county?
view the full question and answer

Need information about Pignut (Hoffmannseggia glauca).
November 30, 2009 - I wanted to know a little about Pignut (also called Indian Rush-pea and Hog Potato); botanical name Hoffmannseggia glauca. Is it edible, and at what point does the plant produce a tuber (looks like a ...
view the full question and answer

Help with control of small, invasive groundcover
April 16, 2012 - I have a very invasive ground cover creeping into my yard. I've tried to identify it and it's similar to creeping charlie or garlic mustard. Leaves are triangular with jagged edges, small purple f...
view the full question and answer

Digging sassafras roots in Oklahoma
March 11, 2009 - When should I dig sassafras roots in eastern Oklahoma?
view the full question and answer

Plants for shade, poor soil in Park Ridge NJ
June 17, 2010 - Hello! I live in far northeast New Jersey, by the New York state border. I am looking for plants for areas of my lawn that nothing currently grows in - due to shade and poor soil quality - very rocky,...
view the full question and answer

Support the Wildflower Center by Donating Online or Becoming a Member today.