Plant World

Introduction and Historical Background

Which plants have been used to create dyes?

Natural materials, including many plants, were the source of all dyes until the late nineteenth century. Blue dye was historically rare and was obtained from the indigo plant (Indigofera tinctoria). Another color difficult to obtain for dye was red. The madder plant (Rubia tinctorum) was an excellent source of red dye and was used for the famous “red coats” of the British Army. Native Americans painted their faces and dyed their clothes red with the root of the bloodroot wildflower, which is also called redroot, Indian paint, and tetterwort. Bloodroot (Sanguinaria Canadensis), found in shady, damp, and woodsy soils, blooms in May and has white flowers that are 2 inches (5 centimeters) wide. Other, more common, natural dyes derived from plant sources are summarized in the following chart:


This is a web preview of the "The Handy Science Answer Book" app. Many features only work on your mobile device. If you like what you see, we hope you will consider buying. Get the App