Foraging Flavonoids


Foraging Flavonoids

Before we get started, let's agree on what I call the Foragers Pact;


When foraging it’s important to leave enough for the plant to thrive and allow enough to be left for birds and other animals. As a rule of thumb: take only what you need and not more than 10% of any living plant. After a storm there is often enough windfall to get around, that is a great time to go, collect and store plant materials. Never strip live bark from trees, instead you can use windfall or strip from pruned branches.


In Israel the climate is such that almost everything would grow like weed so we have a massive pruning squad twice a year which is when I go out and get whatever I need.


When I return to the studio I spread out all the foliage on some newspapers outside so any bugs can safely escape before I toss it all in boiling water.


You can read about the different flavonoids that are stable phytopigments for natural dyeing, we can use this information to look around us at what grows near. What are those plants growing abundantly in the wild that we could use for natural dyeing?

I went on a nice walk and collected 4 species of plants to show you, there are many plants to choose from but I took the ones that are abundant in season here right now (winter) and that contain the flavonoids I am after.


Use in abundance.

All samples were mordanted with Aluminium Tri Formate (cold process, bucket method), and dyed with a minimum of 500% WOF fresh dye materials.

A post mordant of 1% Ferrous Sulfate and 5% Titanium Oxalate was used on part of the samples to indicate presence of tannins in the dye stuff. Ferrous sulfate makes the fabrics darker and titanium oxalate makes it more orange.

I used vintage linen, handwoven cotton wool thread, wild silk (the chunky pieces with high saturation in the pictures) and habotai silk for the samples.


Birch Leaves

Birch leaves: the thin-leaved deciduous hardwood tree of the genus Betula is a great renewable source of wood for furniture, Its' leaves are rich in vitamin c.

Active dye components; the flavonoids present in birch leaves are depending on the species and can be Naringenin, Apigenin, Luteolin, Acacetin, Kaempferol, Quercetin as well as Gallotannins.


Method; collect young twigs with leaves. You can also dye with birch bark. Heat in plenty of water together with mordanted fabric. But since we were looking for flavonoids I did use Aluminium Tri Formate for this test. Bring to a simmer and keep steeping for 2 hours. Cool down in the dye pot. Rinse and dry.


Birch natural dye samples

Mullein (Verbascum thapsus)

Mullein Leaves

I do not know if there is another plant with such an abundance of nicknames; Adam's flannel, Flannel plant, Flannel leaf, Fluffweed, Aaron's rod, Beggar's blanket, Beggar's stalk, Big taper, Blanket herb, Bullock's lungwort, Candlewick plant, Clot, Clown's lungwort, Common mullein, Cuddy's lungs, Duffle, Feltwort, Flannel mullein, Hare's beard, Hag's taper, Jacob's staff, Jupiter's staff, White mullein, Mullein dock, Old man's flannel, Our lady's flannel, Peter's staff, Rag paper, Shepherd's staff, Shepherd's clubs, Torches, Velvet dock, Velvet plant, Woollen and Wild ice leaf.


These names already describe the characteristics of this plant; a thick rosette of hairy leaves, and a long rod-like flower in season that was used as a torch by dipping it in fat. Mullein is native to Europe, northern Africa and Asia; introduced and naturalized in the Americas, Australia and many other areas of the globe. Often grows along roadsides and in open, sunny areas. Mullein is legally listed as a noxious weed in Colorado and Hawaii, and in some other parts of the world.


Mullein contains Luteolin, Cynaroside, Kaempferol, Quercetin, and Rutin, which makes it a super decent dyer.


Method; cut the leaves close to the ground, process fresh, leave whole in the dye pot unless you love cleaning sticky stuff from your textiles. Heat in plenty of water together with mordanted fabric. Bring to a simmer and keep steeping for 2 hours. Cool down in the dye pot. Rinse and dry.

Mullein Natural Dye Samples


Eucalyptus leaves

Eucalyptus has plenty of uses. It's the florist's favorite filler, the dried leaves and oil are used to make medicine. People use eucalyptus for many conditions from releasing a stuffed nose to battling head lice, toe nail fungus, and many others.


The leaves' main colorants are Quercitin, Rutin and up to 11% of eleggic and gallo tannins. There are many many species and they will all give different shades, Sally Blake has made this amazing chart where you can see the yield for each species.

Eucalyptus bark is easily collected as most species shed big amounts of it, the bark contains Naringenin, Quercetin, Rhamnazin and Rhamnetin.


Method; collect the leaves, there is often windfall around the tree. You can use the leaves fresh or dried, I personally just crush twigs with the leaves still on them. Heat in plenty of water together with mordanted fabric but know that this is a substantive dye and you could do without an alum based mordant. But since we were looking for flavonoids I did use Aluminium Tri Formate for this test. Bring to a simmer and keep steeping for 2 hours. Cool down in the dye pot. Rinse and dry.

Eucalyptus natural dye samples
Sage Leaves

Sage used for cooking, add in soups and it pairs great with fish. Drink as a tea to fight digestive problems, including loss of appetite, gas, stomach pain and bloating. In our house we burn dried sage (called a smudge) as a spiritual cleanse and cleaning the air of bugs and viruses. Sage will grow easily in in well-drained soil.

Active dye components in sage leaves are Kaempferol, rosmarinic acid and Luteolin. With a ferrous sulfate mordant lightfastness has been tested to be a 4.


Method; pick the leaves, process fresh. Heat in plenty of water together with mordanted fabric. Bring to a simmer and keep steeping for 2 hours. Cool down in the dye pot. Rinse and dry. Do this outside if you find the smell overwhelming.


Sage natural dye samples

Of course this list is nowhere near complete, I want to encourage you to do your research and find the plants that will have good flavonoids around you in your neighborhood. What are the plants you could use to dye materials? What would you make out of them? Thinking out of the box; you can eco print with the same leaves and they will give you lovely results. Share your ideas in the comments.


My online natural dye and botanical print course is coming up, if you want to stay in the loop sign up for the newsletter in the bottom of the page.






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