Dyers Greenweed

(Genista tinctoria) A very widespread undershrub, occurring over most of Europe, into Siberia, and naturalised in North America, where they have a saying that when cows have eaten it, their milk is butter (Sanford). This is a dye plant, as both the specific and common names tell. The young shoots and flowering tops are the parts used for a yellow dye. When mixed with woad, it gives the colour known as Kendal Green, used originally by the Flemish weavers who settled at Kendal (J Smith. 1882). The dried flowers are used in Ukraine to colour Easter eggs yellow (Newall).

It has its medicinal uses, too. A tincture made from it was reckoned a laxative, and the seeds were taken to induce vomiting (Sanford), for they are mildly purgative, and a decoction of the plant has been used for oedema, gout and rheumatism (Grieve. 1931). In Russia, it was even used for rabies (Pratt). The gout remedy goes back a long way, for we find a 15th century leechdom quoting the use: "Take flowers of broom and flowers and leaves of woadwaxen [Dyer's Greenweed], equally much, and stamp them with may-butter, and let it stand so together all night: and on the morrow melt it in a pan over the fire, and skim it well. This medicine is good for all cold evils. And for sleeping hand or foot, and for cold gout" (Dawson. 1934).

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