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Easy natural dye sources from California Native Plants table


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A table of California native plants that can be used to produce natural dyes. These plants are easy to use. The table includes suggestions for methods to extract the dyes.

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Easy natural dye sources from California Native Plants table

  1. 1. Some Easy Dye Sources for Wool and Cotton – S. California Native Plants Methods for Extracting the Dye Plant Species Plant Part Flowers (3:1 flowers:wool) Leaves & stems Extraction method/ mordant Color Notes Simmer; soak overnight; alum Yellow Simmer; soak overnight; Fe Olive Inner bark Chop into pieces & soak materials 24 days; simmer; alum or no mordant Light red Roots Chop into pieces; simmer; soak 48 hr; alum Tan Arctostaphyllos species Manzanita Leaves Chop; simmer; soak 48 hr; no mordant Yellow-brown to gray-brown Artemisia californica CA Sagebrush Entire branches (leaves, flowers, stems) Simmer; soak overnight; alum Yellow-gold Asclepias species Entire plant Simmer; soak overnight; alum Green Plant parts are toxic; use precautions Leaves & stems Simmer; soak overnight; alum Gold-khaki Yellow-orange (from red Mulefat stems) Fe mordant makes color slightly more brown Flowers Solar or cold-water soak to extract dye and dye wool – a week or so until color develops; alum Green Leaves, shoots Cut to smaller pieces; simmer; soak overnight; alum or no mordant Tan-orange Root Pound to mash; soak 48 hrs; boil 1 hr., then cool ; alum Red-brown Achillea millefolium Yarrow; Paswat Alnus rhombifolia Baccharis salicifolia or B. pilularis Mulefat; Coyote Bush Ceanothus species can cause skin rash; Bark is high in tannins (natural mordants) Leaves high in tannins; dyes have good permanence Foliage contains tannins (natural mordant) iii
  2. 2. Plant Species Plant Part Extraction method/ mordant Color Notes Yellow dye used by Navajo weavers; green blossoms and green inner bark can be used for green dye Chrysothamnus nauseosus / Ericameria nauseosa Rabbitbush Flower heads, fresh or dried Simmer; soak overnight; alum Bright clear yellows Clarkia species Clarkia; Farewell-toSpring flowers Simmer; soak overnight; alum Green & gold Coreopsis gigantea Giant Coreopsis Flowers, stems, roots Chop materials; simmer; soak overnight; alum Bright orange to red/orange Fraxinus dipetala CA Ash Inner bark Chop materials into pieces, pound with hammer; simmer; soak up to 3 days; alum Pink-red Gnaphalium & pseudognaphalium Cudweeds Whole plant or just flowers Chop materials; simmer; soak overnight; alum Yellows & greens Flower heads Simmer; soak overnight; alum; can use ammonia rinse Yellow Use high plant/wool ratio. Can also use Sn mordant Stalks & leaves Simmer; soak overnight; alum, Fe or both; can use ammonia rinse Green; khaki Use high plant/wool ratio. Can also use Sn mordant Leaves/ small branches Simmer; soak for up to several weeks; alum. Or solar dye with alum for 1-2 weeks. Yellow to orange Winter-collection produces darker colors; for safety, heat only outside Berries Mash ripe berries (winter); simmer or solar dye with alum orange Grindelia species Gum Plants Heteromeles arbutifolia Toyon; Ashuwet Bright, permanent dye iv
  3. 3. Plant Species Plant Part Extraction method/ mordant Color Notes Oenothera elata (hookeri) Hooker’s Primrose Foliage +/roots Simmer; soak several days; alum Warm tan Populus species Cottonwood, Poplar Flower buds or Leaves Simmer; soak overnight; alum Yellow, gold Rhus integrifolia & R. ovata Fallen leaves; dried leaves Simmer; soak 2-3 days; no mordant Brown, tan Rich in tannins, so extract can be used as a mordant Apricot Other Salix will also likely produce good, fast dyes Lemonadeberry; Sugar Bush Salix gooddingii Goodding’s Black Willow Bark (inner) or root Leaves Berries Sambucus nigra ssp. cerulea/ S. mexicana Blue (Mexican) Elderberry Leaves Chop into smaller pieces; soak 4-6 days; boil 1-2 hr; soak overnight Simmer; soak overnight; alum Alum/solar dye Mash fruit; solar dye or cold-water extraction for a week or more; alum (violet) or alum & salt (lilac color) Chop into pieces; simmer 45 min.; soak overnight or longer; alum Green Gold Lavender to gray green Vitis species Wild Grapes Flower stems (yellow or orange colored) Chop materials; simmer; soak overnight or several days; alum Orange/yellow Flower heads Boil/simmer yellow (mature) flowers (no leaves) 1 hr. or until color is strong; soak overnight; alum Pale to medium yellows; may be strong golden yellow Leaves, foliage Solidago species Goldenrods May not be lightfast ; Boil/simmer 1 hr.; soak overnight; alum Khaki to green Leaves (fresh or dried) Boil/simmer 1 hr.; soak overnight; alum yellow Varying shades of yellow, depending on the amt. of dye, mordant used, etc.; colorfast; exc. for wool, silk v