WOAD (Isatis tinctoria)


Europe, Caucasus, Asia



From the Stone Age, Isatis tinctoria was the source of blue colouring in Europe. It was said to have provided the dye with which the Celts (Boudicca and the Iceni in East Anglia, the Picts further north) painted their bodies before battle.

The Woad Trade

This blue dye was used for textiles and medieval illustration. It became part of a thriving trade; England, France, Italy and Germany all had Woad-growing areas. The plant’s leaves were chopped & mashed into a paste; this was rolled into balls that were dried & could then be traded.

The Woad balls were pulverised, sprinkled with water & left to ferment. The crumbly substance thus produced was then dried & packed into barrels, to be sent off for sale.

http://www.jennydean.co.uk/index.php/using-woad-balls/ https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Isatis_tinctoria


Other names: Asp of Jerusalem, Base-broom, Da Qing Ye (Chinese), Der Waid (German), Dyer’s Broom, Dyer’s woad, Farberginster, Genet des Teinturiers, Glaisin (old Irish), Glasrac (Scots-Gaelic), Glastum, Glesyn (Welsh), Goud, Greenweed, Greenwood, Guado (Italian), Gualda (Spanish), Guede (French), Isatis (Greek),  Isatis Indigotiga, Morsinko (Finnish), Ode, Urzet (Polish), Vaida (Russia), Vajd (Danish), Vejde (Swedish), Vejt (Czech), Vitro (Latin), Wad (Anglo-Saxon, old English), Wede (Dutch), Woad Leaf, Wood-waxen (formerly Wede-wixen or Woud-wix.)

For one season we tried Woad in the garden, bringing back a young plant from the Centre for Wildlife Gardening, Peckham. Slugs & snails loved it, so it was kept in a pot & moved about until it flowered. Its YELLOW flowers proved unattractive to insects, & it appears that only one insect, an aphid, lives ON it.

Woad was much used in dye-making in the Middle Ages. But so foul was the smell produced by the fermentation process that Queen Elizabeth I banned dye being made from Woad within 5 miles (8 km) of any of her palaces.


Demi Bown