Pohutukawa (Metrosideros Excelsa; known in Australia as New Zealand Christmas Tree) is a native plant from New Zealand, which is grown in Australia as a street tree, particularly in seaside locations. In New Zealand/Aotearoa I saw it growing right on the beach, gloriously. It is a hardy and beautiful tree. I came past dozens of them on Oaklands Road (a main road in the southern suburbs of Adelaide) yesterday and pulled over. I was immediately approached by some people who were looking for Marion Pool, so I gave some directions while I was there harvesting.
I was keen to try dyeing with the leaves of this tree because I’ve leaf printed with them on wool and found the colour almost purple. These leaf prints are on a strip of cream-coloured woolen blanket.
The leaves are green and glossy on one side and almost white and slightly fluffy on the back. One side printed pale green and the other, deep purply-brown. Or perhaps the purple part is in my imagination. These leaf prints were cooked with a set of eucalyptus prints, so for about 3 hours. It is possible a shorter time would be better for these leaves, though they are tough too.
Searching the web and Ravelry for clues yesterday though all I found were browns. Undeterred, I went ahead with two test dyebaths.
I cooked one with the leaves alone in rainwater and one with leaves, rainwater, and a trusty piece of iron pipe. I cooked them for an hour at a light simmer and left to cool and sit overnight. The olive green (or is it khaki) on alumed wool with leaves alone is interesting, but if there are exciting colours to be coaxed from these leaves, clearly I’ll have to try another method. For now, leaf prints are the best result I have achieved.
Leaves alone in rainwater (left) and leaves, rainwater, and iron pipe (right) with wool; wool + alum; silk; cotton).
4 responses to “Pohutukawa leaves”
You never fail to amaze me with your leaf prints. I have two pohutukawa trees in the garden, but never tried them because they’re so tough and leathery. Silly me!
I think it was reading Ida Grae that convinced me I would never know if something was a dye plant just by looking at it!
I’ve only just found your post while I was looking for rainwater and natural dyeing references. I’m so glad i did as I have Metrosideros growing in my garden and had not thought to try it. The olive greens you got are pretty nice but I’m definitely going to try steaming the leaves into silk and wool too! Thanks very much for your post.
How wonderful to have this lovely tree in your own yard! I’ve found it a rather wonderful dye plant. that capacity to print two colours from one leaf is pretty amazing! You’re very welcome. m