What are some of the plants where dyes come from?

What are some of the plants where dyes come from?Man has harnessed the ability of plants to color textiles since ancient times. The earliest written record of the use of natural dyes was found in China, dating back to 2600BC. Some dyes were more expensive than others, and more prestigious, too. In the late fourth century, Emperor Theodosium of Byzantium issued a decree forbidding the use of certain shades of purple except by the imperial family – on pain of death.

These days you won’t be facing execution for wearing purple, but you may be surprised at the sources of natural dyes – they are everywhere: roots, berries, bark, leaves, flowers and even nuts. Some are obvious – turmeric will give you yellow, for example. But a few give surprising colors to material. Certain pink and red flowers might produce yellow or brown dye.

Plants were the primary source of dye until the mid-19th century. That was when people discovered that dye pigments could be chemically produced. And so the process of natural dyeing became pretty much obsolete.

Today, artists and craftsmen use natural dyes in small quantities. Keen to give it a try? Here is a short list of plants, berries, bark, leaves and powders as listed in Cloth by Cassandra Ellis (Stewart, Tabori and Chang) and the kind of color they’ll give you:



Bamboo – turkey red
Blackberries – dark red
Beetroot peelings – red
Cherries – dark pink
Crab-apple bark – red/yellow
Elderberry – red
Grape skins – bright fuchsia
Madder root – red
Purple sage – red
Raspberries – red
Rosehips – pink
Roses and lavender – with a little mint and some lemon juice to activate the alkaloids this makes a brilliant pink dye
Strawberries – pink

 What are some of the plants where dyes come from?


Basil – purplish grey
Blackberries – strong purple
Blueberries – purple
Cornflower petals (with alum) – blue
Elderberries – lavender
Grapes – purple
Hyacinth flowers – blue
Logwood – with alum it gives purple to blue-purple
Mulberries – royal purple
Olives that have dropped from a tree – deep blue/purple
Ornamental plum tree leaves – purple grey
Red cabbage – mauve/purple
Saffron petals – blue/green



Artichokes – green
Black-eyed Susan flowers – bright olive/apple green
Hydrangea flowers – with added copper, a beautiful celery green
Broom stem – green
Calendula flowers – luminescent green
Camellia (pink, red petals) – green
Carrot tops – light green
Chamomile leaves – green
Grape leaves – shades of yellows to earthy chartreuse and deep greens
Grass – yellow green
Lilac flowers – green
Nettle – light yellow/green
Peppermint – dark khaki green
Red onion skin – lighter than forest green
Rosemary leaves – pale green
Snapdragon flowers – green
Sorrel roots – dark green
Spinach leaves – green



Acorns (boiled) – light yellow/brown
Beluga black lentils (soaked in water overnight) – milk chocolate brown to a light brown when watered down
Birch bark (with alum) – light brown/buff
Broom bark – yellow/brown
Coffee grinds – dark brown
Dandelion roots – brown
Fennel flowers or leaves – yellow/brown
Iris roots – mid brown
Ivy twigs – yellow/brown
Juniper berries – brown
Oak bark – tan or oak color
Sumac leaves – black
Teabags – light brown/tan
Walnut hulls – deep brown
Walnut husks – deep brown-black
Wild plum root – reddish/rusty brown



Alfalfa seeds – yellow
Bay leaves – yellow
Brown onion skins – yellow
Celery leaves – pale yellow
Crocus – yellow
Daffodil flower heads (after they have died) – yellow
Dahlia flowers (red, yellow, orange flowers) – orange/yellow
Dandelion flowers – pale yellow
Heather plant – yellow
Marigold blossoms – yellow
Mimosa flowers – yellow
Paprika – pale yellow/light orange
Peach leaves – yellow
Poppy roots – earthy yellow
Sunflowers – yellow
Turmeric – bright yellow
Weld – bright yellow


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