Host an Event Volunteer Join Tickets

Support the plant database you love!

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
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

Is Tagetes lemmonii (Copper Canyon Daisy) native to the Southwest?
September 01, 2014 - Due to the continued drought I have resolved to only use native plants in my garden. Copper canyon daisy is be recommended more often at nurseries. The NPSOT lists it a native of Arizona, yet I cann...
view the full question and answer

Eliminating unwanted vine on arbor in San Francisco
November 20, 2012 - There is a vine growing on our arbor, it has sickle-shaped pods and is crushing the arbor, how do we get rid of it?
view the full question and answer

Plant identification
November 08, 2012 - I have visited this page and 18 more! I am still trying to find a plant that I found on a creek that runs through our land. I have pics. Great ones! Can I send the pic? If you like it, use it. I ...
view the full question and answer

Plant identification--vine with spiny pods in California
July 05, 2010 - I came across a vine while hiking in Orange County, CA. It didn't have flowers on it but has 3 or 4 inch spiny pods. What is it? The vine itself looks similar to a Morning Glory vine.
view the full question and answer

Plant identification
September 23, 2010 - There is a vine that grows at my child's daycare that has been taunting me day and night, because I have no idea what it is and I typically have no problems identifying plants. Description: Vine- L...
view the full question and answer

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