I love botanical gardens, where the trees are helpfully labelled. In Adelaide, this is true even of those outside the grounds… which is how I came to take a few leaves from E Leptophylla.
For lovers of brown, this might be a viable dye plant. I’m still working on loving brown for most applications. I tend to think brown sheep are made for creating brown wool. But I’m blessed with access to coloured sheep fleece, and not everyone is so lucky.
I have to say that it is more of a dye prospect than E Gillii. A friend has this beautiful plant growing in his backyard, so I tried it out some time ago and got smudgy tan marks and no more. It’s best admired for loveliness of leaf and flower in my view. I also tried Chinese elm–no colour at all.
A visit to the botanical gardens, even when I am really outside the gates, is never wasted.
Eucalyptus Leucoxylon Megalocarpa--what a hefty title for the South Australian Blue Gum! Well, that’s what people call it where I live, but it is native to Victoria as well as South Australia and in Victoria, it is more likely to be called Large-Fruited Yellow Gum. The fruits are large compared to other blue gums I know, but by comparison with seriously large-fruited gums such as E Erythrocorys, not so big.
This is possibly the most popular street tree in my city. There are loads of them. So it’s a shame that this is not an exciting dye plant (tan again!) On the other hand, at the moment it is coming into flower everywhere and the lorikeets and bees couldn’t be happier. As eucalypts go, it is a small-medium size tree (to only about 8 metres). Here it is with a house for comparison.
It is shedding bark in lots of places at present–I haven’t tried dyeing with the bark as yet.
The flowers are a major attraction for those who plan parks and streetscapes, and also for lorikeets, honeyeaters and bees. Cream is one of the most common colours…
Red is the other, and these trees are profuse. There are also specimens that have been grafted or bred for other flower colours. I saw a peach-coloured display of flowers yesterday.
The lorikeets just went higher when they saw my camera, but the bees stuck with what they were doing. Moving fast! But this one allowed a partial photo.You can see buds, immature fruits and flowers all present close together here. On some trees, fully mature fruit that have released seed are on the tree as well.
I have to say this specimen had the most extensive infestation of whatever insect produced those little galls I’ve ever seen. Clearly it’s providing habitat for a lot of baby insects of some kind as well as bees, ants and birds. I can’t really complain that it gives tan in the circumstances.
One weekend recently we went to visit a friend who lives near the Aldinga Scrub. While I was there we went for a wonderful walk on the beach, making the dog and ourselves happy. So I collected a couple of samples while we were out, as many local people, like my friend, are planting as many local species as they can around their homes. I decided to try a quandong and its mistletoe. In case you’re not from around here, dear reader, let me advise that in Australia, mistletoe is a big family of parasitic plants which will eventually (but usually slowly) kill their hosts. It isn’t so much the romantic plant under which people kiss at certain festivals. There are lots of mistletoes, and they are cunningly adapted to a narrow range of host plants.
I have a fabulous book on mistletoes, Mistletoes of Southern Australia by David M Watson, published by the CSIRO. It has me in awe of these extraordinary plants, but has convinced me that I am unlikely ever to be able to identify them with confidence. There are only 46 to choose from in this part of the continent, though, so the task is a good bit smaller than learning Eucalypt identification. There are some mistletoes in the book that this plant is clearly not. But as to which one it is… I have several candidates in mind. And I don’t know which of the quandongs this is, either. It doesn’t look like the favoured bush food species Santalum acuminatum to me. But Wikipedia lists a lot of other varieties all called ‘quandong’!
Anyway, on to the leaf prints. Quandong in flower, before:
After cooking with iron, which left quite an impression:
The iron may have made an impression, but this convinced me that this quandong isn’t much of a dye plant. And now, the mistletoe, which is in glorious flower and will later create a rather impressive berry. Before:
And after. I think this leaf print is a good bit less glorious than the plant, but this is definitely a distinct print. So the mistletoe has dye potential.
And that is the story of the quandong and its mistletoe for now…
E Erythrocorys (Ilyarrie) is in bud at present. The buds are large, with impressive, unusually shaped bud caps.
I found a few flowers on one of the trees near a car park at work, but they were high up. The fruits of the previous season are still maturing, and they are just enormous–the size of a large apricot or plum.
The leaves are long, too. I’ve experimented with this tree in the past, obtaining a mid-orange from dried fallen leaves. This time I tried leaf prints. Before…
And after simmering with iron. Another not-too-exciting result.
E Lehmanii (bushy yate) has a very distinctive arrangement of buds, flowers and fruit. When I was a kindergardener, we used to put the long bud caps on our fingers and call them witch’s fingers and chase each other around. I can’t pretend to have had any sophisticated critique of the concept ‘witch’ at that stage in my life!
I came across some planted as street trees while I was out doing a run with friends. On the way back to our car, I managed to collect some bark–since it had helpfully fallen. I also collected a few leaves. I have a sample card from a previous experiment with bushy yate leaves from a friend’s property, which gave quite a strong orange-brown.
I used iron with the leaves, and the contribution from the iron on this occasion was really quite intense. Before…
After… a result that won’t have me rushing out to collect bushy yate for leaf prints, but a result just the same.
And as for the bark pot… tan, again! I would have to rate the biggest take home message from the series of bark dye pots this summer as being that alum really makes a difference with the Eucalypt barks I’ve tried. With leaves, I seldom see any impressive difference between alum mordanted wool and plain wool. I dye with E Scoparia bark often and have found no point in mordanting with alum (though this experience makes me think I should try again and double check). The bark pots, however, have given various shades of tan without mordant and much stronger browns with alum, and E Lehmanii is no exception. On the left, sample card from a pot of fresh leaves. On the right, results of the bark pot, simmered for an hour and a half.
Riding along the railway corridor near Oaklands railway station, I passed one striking red-flowered tree I didn’t recognise and kept pedalling, but when I saw a second, I pulled over. Here’s the tree.
The flowers were especially striking: bright red, with stamens curling back up and around the base of the fruit. The bud caps are bright red, coming to a pointed tip.
Quite a sight.
In her book Eco Colour, India Flint argues that eco-prints are a good way to test potential dye plants using minimal leaf material, and she is, of course, right. On the right, E Erythronema var Erythronema. Not much of a dye specimen. On the left, leaves from another E Scoparia, I believe.
The river red gums are shedding bark all over my city. I was riding down to visit my parents passing a planting of these trees along the railway corridor near Marion station. I couldn’t resist, so pulled over and took pictures and bark. Under these trees, the ground is covered with thousands of tiny gumnuts (as well as bark).
So of course, I collected some bark just to try it out… and yes, tan again. Brown, with alum. Often I can see almost no difference between wool with no mordant and wool with alum after dyeing, but this was a clear example of alum making a difference.
Our lovely friend has an Angophora Costata subsp Costata (Sydney Red Gum) in her backyard. When the bark is newly shed, these trees have a stunning rust-orange coloured trunk. There were many to be seen and admired in and around Sydney when we were there in December. The other day she came around with… a bag of fallen bark for me! Here is my sample card and swatch before:
And, after. You could call it cinnamon, I suppose–the alum mordanted, superwash sample is really quite brown. Or on the other hand, you could just call it tan, again.
Continuing the recent bark theme… and since it is the season of bark shedding for so many local trees, I bring you a Eucalyptus Saligna (Sydney blue gum) bark dyepot. I collected the bark in December and had a very funny conversation with a passerby who had lots of ideas about what I might be doing with that bark. This tree has a rough base but has shed all the bark above it in strips now.
It is a huge tree! It is outside a block of townhouses, where some trees were removed a while back but this one was saved by some local friends.
What a beauty.
Enjoy the tree, because as I write I’ve looked into the dye pot where my handspun wool is heating and this is a case of tan again, I believe. Here is the bark after I added rainwater for a few days of soaking.
And here, my friends, is my dyed wool.
And against a background of E Scoparia-dyed merino:
Given the level of colour in my E Cladocalyx bark tannin bath (see previous post), I couldn’t resist trying to dye some wool. This is handspun finn cross wool, cooked for about 90 minutes in a solution of E Cladocalyx bark, which had been soaked in a sunny spot for 14 days prior to dyeing. The commercial superwash, alum mordanted strand of wool on my test card is a much darker shade of brown.