Explore Plants

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
    
 

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
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

Fruit trees for Kempner, Texas
November 29, 2013 - I just moved to Kempner , TX and would like to plant a couple of fruit trees in my 1 1/4 ac yard. I would like to plant a species that will do well and produce edible fruit. Any assistance will be app...
view the full question and answer

Identifying a plant similar to sarsaparilla
September 04, 2011 - I am trying to identify a plant that looks very similar to sasparilla, but has a ring of blue berries at the end of a long stalk, and the plant itself is spreading, not an isolated herb like sasparill...
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

Will a chile pequin survive winters in Garden City, Kansas
March 24, 2010 - Dear Mr. Smarty Pants, I am trying to determine if a chile pequin (Capsicum annuum) can survive Kansas winters. My sister lives in Killeen, TX, and has a couple of these bushes in her yard. She broug...
view the full question and answer

Best vegetables to grow in San Antonio
June 06, 2006 - What vegtables are the safest bet for growing in San Antonio? Thanks
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.