Sunday, July 19, 2009

Dyer's Broom/ Farve-Visse
Genista tinctoria

Dyer's Broom is also named Dyer's Greenweed. It has pretty butter-yellow flowers and it grows all over Europe where it is found in heaths and fringes, along roads and the edges of woods and in light oak- and pine woods. All parts of the plant are poisonous.

The plant was always used for dyeing linen and wool, already the Romans knew these qualities. Dyer's broom provides a useful yellow dye which is fast, and it was grown commercially for this purpose in parts of Britain into the early 19th century. The woollen cloth mordanted with alum was dipped yellow with dyer's broom. In England linen and wool were dyed yellow with dyer's broom, then dipped into a vat of blue dye - woad or later indigo - to produce the once famous Kendal Green, which was superseded by the brighter Saxon Green in the 1770s. Kendal Green is a local common name for the plant. With an after care with iron-sulphate the dye becomes dark brown and with copper sulphate olivegreen.

In Welsh mythology Blodeuweed is the name of a woman made from the flowers of broom, meadowsweet and the oak by Math ab Mathonwy and Gwydion to be the wife of Llen Llaw Gyffes. Her story is part of the Mabinogi, the tale of Math, son of Mathonwy.

A traditional hymn from Sussex says:
Sweep the house with blossed broom in May
Sweep the head of the household away.
Despite this it was also common to include a decorated bundle of broom at weddings.

Ashes of broom were used to treat dropsy, while its strong smell was said to be able to tame wild horses and dogs.

In folk medicine dyer's broom was used for numerous diseases like many other herbs. Besides this it was used as a coffe-substitute and a culinary herb. The plant is poisonous so they might need a treatment after a cup of coffee or a spray of broom-spice on the dish!

photo Trehøje, Mols 11. July 2009: grethe bachmann

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