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Woad
Brassicaceae
Isatis tinctoria



Thunder
Thunder
Type Categories Useful Parts

Herb


Brassicaceae Family

Isatis Genus
Other Names for this Plant

Dyers Woad, Glastum


Location

Woad is native to the steppe and desert zones of the Caucasus, Central Asia to eastern Siberia and Western Asia (Hegi). Is now found in southeastern and some parts of Central Europe as well. It has been cultivated throughout Europe, especially in Western and southern Europe, since ancient times.

Physical Description
Woad is a temperate herbaceous biennial, which produces a basal rosette of leaves during the first year and a single stem that eventually bears yellow flowers the second year. The leaves on the erect stem are lance-shaped and have no petiole. Stems are up to 4 feet tall and bear ¼-inch wide, yellow flowers in flat-topped clusters during May and June. Fruits are teardrop shaped, ¾-inch long, purplish-brown at maturity, pendulous, and each contains a single seed.

In some parts of the world, this species is a noxious weed, and it is rarely cultivated any more, although woad can be grown easily in temperate gardens.


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What's This?

Brassicaceae
Brassicales
Brassicales
Order of Mustard
Eumalvids
Real Mallows
Malvidae
Mallow Class
Eurosids
Real Rose Class
Rosids
Rosids
Rose-Like Class
Core Eudicots
Core Eudicots
Main, Real, Two First-Leaves (Dicots)
Eudicots
Eudicots
Real, Two First-Leaves (Dicots)
Mesangiospermae
Mesangiospermae
Half Capsule Seed Division
Magnoliophyta
Magnoliophyta
Magnolia Division
Spermatophytes
Spermatophytes
Seed Plants
Euphyllophytina
Real Land Plants
Polysporangiates
Multiple Spore Sub-Kingdom
Stomatophytes
Stomatophytes
Air Pores Sub-Kingdom
Embryophytes
Embryophytes
Multicellular Land Plants
Streptobionta
Streptobionta
Multicellular Plants
Plantae
Plantae
Plants
Eukaryota
Eukaryota
Cells with a Nucleus


General Information

Woad is native to the Middle East and the Mediterranean from which it spread into Europe and where it has been in use as a dye plant since Neolithic times. Textiles dyed with woad were found in Viking ship burials like the Oseberg ship in Norway and the Celtic chieftains graves in Hallstatt, Austria. The famous Bayeux tapestry has several shades of blue dyed with woad.

The first archaeological finds of woad seeds date to the Neolithic and have been found in the French cave of l'Audoste, Bouches du Rhone (France). Named Färberwaid (Isatis tinctoria L.) or German Indigo of the plant family (Brassicaceae), in the Iron Age settlement of the Heuneburg, Germany, impressions of the seeds have been found on pottery. The Hallstatt burials of Hochdorf and Hohmichele contained textiles dyed with Färberwaid (dye woad).

Medicinal Uses: Indigowoad Root is a traditional Chinese medicine herb that comes from the roots of woad, but often incorrectly listed under the synonymic name, Isatis indigotica. It is also known as Radix isatidis. The herb is cultivated in various regions of northern China, namely Hebei, Beijing, Heilongjiang, Henan, Jiangsu, and Gansu. The roots are harvested during the autumn and dried. The dried root is then processed into granules, which are most commonly consumed dissolved in hot water or tea. The product, called Banlangen Keli, is very popular throughout China, and used to remove toxic heat, soothe sore throat and to treat influenza, measles, mumps, syphilis, or scarlet fever. It is also used for pharyngitis, laryngitis, erysipelas, and carbuncle, and to prevent hepatitis A, epidemic meningitis, cancer and inflammation. Possible minor side effects include allergic reactions and dizziness; only large dosages or long term usage can be toxic to the kidneys. These treatments have not generally been evaluated clinically.

Food Uses: Leaves - they require long soaking in order to remove a bitterness, and even then they are still bitter. There is no record of the seeds being edible

Other Uses: Woad is historically famous as a dye plant, having been used as body paint by the ancient Britons prior to the invasion of the Romans. A blue dye is obtained from the leaves by a complex process that involves fermenting the leaves and produces a foul stench. The dye is rarely used nowadays, having been replaced first by the tropical Indigofera tinctoria and more recently by synthetic substitutes. Nevertheless, it is a very good quality dye that still finds some use amongst artists etc who want to work with natural dyes. A very good quality green is obtained by mixing it with Dyer's greenwood (Genista tinctoria). Woad is also used to improve the color and quality of indigo, as well as to form a base for black dyes. The leaves are harvested when fully grown and 3 - 4 harvests can be made in total. Recent research in Germany has shown that this plant is a very good preservative for wood



Woad
C.A.M.Lindemans Flora By Carl Lindeman (from Sweden) 1901 to 1905 [Image in Public Domain]

Comment: Woad, Isatis tinctoria

Page Posts: 2

Thunder
Thunder
June 17, 2010
It definitely looks alike, if not woad than a close relative!

gardengeek
gardengeek
June 17, 2010
I have an unidentified plant that looks like this:
  Dyer's Woad Dyer's Woad
Dyer's Woad
Likes disturbed soil. Used to make blue dye. Woad is an Antiseptic. "Dyer" means, the person who Dyes clothing, in this case, deep blue. The first archaeological finds of woad seeds, dated t


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