Dye plants

Never think of natural dyes from plants as insipid greens, yellows and browns. Plants produce dyestuffs that give deep, vibrant colours to textiles, paper and wood. Natural dyes from plants, and from fungi and insects also, have been grown and used for thousands of years, but in our area they have never been major crops, and while some are wild plants that live in and around agriculture, the cultivated ones have rarely left ferals. There is little evidence for or against the cultivation of dye plants or the use of plant dyes in Scotland before the last few centuries. And while natural dyes are still part of  local practice and culture in many tropical and sub-tropical regions, they are no longer familiar here. The art and science of using natural dyes remains in some manufactures and craftwork, however. Both seed and dye materials can be bought from specialist suppliers.

The panel to the right shows (left, top to bottom) chopped madder roots, chopped weld stems, cochineal and logwood chips, and (right) the dyed wool hanks.