Saturday, February 21, 2009

Dyeing with rhododendron leaves Rhodonlehdillä värjäystä

Sain tammikuussa rhodojen lehtiä kokeiltavaksi värjäykseen ystävältä, jolla on todella paljon rhodoja. Itselläni ei ole kuin pari ostettua tainta, ja sitten kymmeniä pikkutaimia, jotka olen kasvattanut siemenestä, kuvassa olevat taimet ovat kaksi vuotta vanhoja ja pääsivät viime keväänä maahan. Uusia siemeniä on tänäkin vuonna jo kylvettynä, mielenkiintoisia risteytyksiä Rhodokerhon siemenvälityksestä:) Odotan innolla, että nämä kasvavat isoiksi pensaiksi, silloin lehtiä jo raaskii kerätä värjäykseenkin, vaikka rhodot ovat ikivihreinä jotenkin eksoottisina kasveina muutenkin mieleeni.

Rhodot ovat samaa sukua suopursujen kanssa ja taas suopursut mainitaan jo 1919 ilmestyneessä Alina Hellenin Kotivärjäyskirjassa, se on koivunlehtireseptien jälkeen yksi Hellenin eniten käyttämä kasvi, esim pelkästään vihreää väriä antavista resepteistä siinä on suopursua yhdistettynä indigon tai sinipuun kanssa kaikkiaan 22 reseptissä. Muilla ko kirjan resepteillä suopursusta sai erilaisia keltaisia ja ruskeita (kuparipuretuksella) ja punaruskeita yhdistettynä krapin kanssa. Käytetyt suopursujen määrät vaihtelivat 3-8 kertaa langan määrä, riippuen halutusta väristä. Yleensä lehdet tai versojen latvat kehoitetan keräämään ennen kukintaa tai kukinnan aikaan, mutta oletin niiden antavan väriä muuhunkin aikaan vuodesta, ja ihan oikein väriä tulikin:)

Vaikka suopursu näyttääkin olleen täällä yleinen värikasvi, ei siitä löydy tietoa eurooppalaisesta värikasvikirjallisuudesta (siis siitä mitä minulla on), edes Cardon ei mainitse sitä. Olisi muuten mielenkiintoista tietää, ovatko suopursut tai Pohjois-Amerikassa luonnonvaraisina kasvavat rhododendronit olleet siellä alkuperäiskansojen käyttämiä värien lähteitä?
Suopursun sisältämistä väriaineista en löytänyt paljoa tietoa, siinä on tanniineja, ( mm leditannic acid), mutta rhododendronien kohdalla löytyi enemmän tietoa niiden sisältämistä flavonoideista. Niissä on mm quercetin, myricetin, quercitrin, myricitrin, hyperin, quercetin 3-glucoside, and the new aglycone quercetin, tiedot täältä. Samoja flavonoideja oli myös löytynyt Rhododendron brachycarpumista, täällä, (ja juuri tätä lajia on kestävien suomessa jalostettujen rhodojen taustalla). Mielenkiintoiselta tuntui myös tämä artikkeli, jossa oli tutkittu suhdetta lehtien sisältämien flavonoidien ja rhodon kylmänkestävyyden välillä. En raaskinut ostaa sitä.. ainakaan vielä, mutta olisi kyllä kiva tietää mitkä flavonoidit olivat nimenomaan yhteydessä kylmäkestävyyteen ja olisivatko ne juuri niitä, jotka antavat kestävimpiä keltaisia värejä. Ylempänä luetelluista quercetin ei ole niin valonkestävä, kun taas nuo muut ovat, Cardonin mukaan. Näköjään eri rhodolajien välillä voi siis olla eroja flavonoidi (ja siis väriaine)pitoisuuksissa.
No, tietysti vain värjäämällä ja itse testaamallahan sen keston helpoiten saa selville:)

In English
In the beginning of January I got rhododendron leaves to experiment with from a friend who has really a big rhodo garden. I have only couple of rhodos which I had bought few years back so they are not very big yet, but then I have also grown rhododendrons from seeds. The ones in the picture are two years old and I planted them outside last summer. I have also sown new seeds already this year, they are hardy and exciting new crossings from Finnish Rhododendron Club.
I am looking forward to seeing all my own grown rhododendrons as big bushes, and then I could use their leaves also for dyeing, though I love the look of these evergreen exotic bushes even without thinking them as dyestuffs:)

Rhododendrons are close relatives of marsh tea (Rhododendron tomentosum, syn Ledum palustre), which grows here in swamps and other wet places. Marsh tea is mentioned as a good dye in old Finnish dye bood (Alina Hellen: Kotivärjäyskirja, 1919) and in that book there are many recipes how to use it. Only in the chapter about green dyes Hellen gives 22 recipes using marsh tea with indigo or logwood, to get different kinds of greens. Other recipes are for yellows and with copper mordant brown and reddish browns when you combine marsh tea with madder. The amounts of marsh tea used vary from 3 to 8 times of the weight of the goods, depending of the wanted shade. Usually the leaves or plant tops are told to gather before flowering or just as the plants are in flower, but I thought that these might give color also other times of the year:)

Even though marsh tea has been a very common dye plant here in Scandinavia, I didn't find any information about it in European dye litterature I have, even Cardon doesn't mention it. It would be interesting to know if marsh tea or rhododendrons growing in the wild in North America were used previously there?
I couldn't find much information about the dyesuffs in marsh tea, only that it contains tannins, leditannic acid, but from rhododendrons I could find more. They contain many flavonoids: quercetin, myricetin, quercitrin, myricitrin, hyperin, quercetin 3-glucoside, and the new aglycone quercetin, this information from here. Rhododendron brachycarpum contains much the same flavoinoids, according to this, and that is a species that is much used to create hardy Finnish rhododendrons:) This article would be also very interesting (but I didn't buy it.. not at least yet). In Poland there had been found relationship between flavonoid concentration in rhododendron leaves and their frost resistance. It would be interesting to know which the exact flavonoids were and if they were the ones that give the best yellows.
According to Cardon quercetin is not so good (even though it is very common) as the other ones. Apparently there are differences in the flavonoid ( and dyestuff) contents in different species of rhododendrons.
Of course the easiest way is just to dye and test the yarns:)


Tein ensin pienen koevärjäyksen: pilkoin 130g rhodojen lehtiä, kaadoin kuumaavettä päälle, annoin hautua seuraavaan päivään, jolloin keitin niitä kolmisen tuntia. Lehdistä lähtee aika kitkerät tuoksut, joten hyvä ilmanvaihto on paikallaan taikka värjäys ulkona.
Siivilöityyn liemeen laitoin yhteensä 25g lankaa (520g lehtiä/100g lankaa), josta osa oli alunalla ja viinikivellä puretettua ja osa purettamatonta, jälkimmäisen laitoin jälkipuretukseen raudalla.
Alunalla puretettu lanka tuli voimakkaan kellanruskeaksi, vasemmanpuolimmainen keskimmäisistä pikkuvyyhdeistä. Samasta liemestä tuli 20g alunapuretettua jälkiväriä: oikeanpuoleinen pikkuvyyhti.
Samoilla suhteilla tein sitten isomman värjäyksen: pilkottuja lehtiä 1,1kg ja 200g lankaa, mutta nyt keltainen ei tullutkaan yhtä voimakas, vaan kauniin kullankeltainen (iso vyyhti oikealla). Kaunis väri, mutta ei sama kuin ensimmäisessä pikkuvärjäyksessä:(
Vielä yksi värjäys oli suopursun lehdillä, joita oli 170g, näillä sain 100g vasemmanpuolimmaista vaalean keltaista. Nyt olin hiukan ahne, lankaa olisi pitänyt laittaa vähemmän tuohon lehtimäärään nähden, mutta ehkä se on silti ok:)
Rautapuretuksen kanssa huomaa hyvin, että lehdet sisältävät tanniineja: odottamani armeijavihreän sijaan langoista tuli hyvin harmaita. Voimakkaassa ensimmäisessä värjäyksessä saatu pikkuvyhti kyllä vihertää hiukan, mutta isompi vyyhti on harmaa, pakko sanoa. Voi mäntti. Ehkäpä, jos lehtiä ei olisi keittänyt niin kovasti, tanniineja ei olisi irronnut ja väri olisi ollut parempi? Toisaalta keltaisissa väreissä tanniinit yhdessä flavonoidien kanssa tekevät väristä ehkä vieläkin kestävämpiä? Seuraavaksi laitan nämä testiin aurinkoon.. kunhan kevään edetessä sitä tulee enemmän näkyviin:)
Rhodojen lehdet olivat paljon helpompia käsitellä kuin suopursujen, tietysti ne piti pilkkoa, mutta kun ne ovat paljon isompia niin myös väriainetta tulee helpommin enemmän.
Eli keltaisia ja kellaruskeita värejä varten rhodojen lehdet tuntuvat oikein käyttökelpoisilta, varsinkin jos vielä valonkestotestit näyttävät plussaa.. niinkuin vähän odotan. Tuloksia myöhemmin.
In English
My first dyeing was a little test: I cut 130grams of rhodo leaves to small pieces, covered with hot water and let them be overnight, then boiled them for three hours. The fumes when boiling are pretty bad, so it is best to have good ventilation or do it outside.
The next day I dyed in the strained bath 25grams of yarn (520g of leaves to the 100grams of yarn), some of it was mordanted with alum and cream of tartar and some were unmordanted. The latter I aftermordanted with iron. With alum the yarn became very nice strong brownish yellow, the left little skein in the middle. The right hand little skein was dyed in the afterbath and so it is not very strong color, even though the bath itself was still very dark brownish red.
Then I used the same proportions of leaves to the yarn and did a bigger bath: 1,1kg of leaves and 200grams of yarn, but for some reason I didn't get the same dark yellow but instead golden yellow, the big skein in the right. Nice color, but not the same as in the test dyeing:(
I did still another bath with marsh tea leaves, I had 170grams of them and I dyed 100grams of alum mordanted yarn lighter yellow, the big skein in the left. I was too greedy, too much yarn to that amount of leaves, but maybe it is still ok:)
From iron mordanted yarns below you can clearly see that these leaves contain a lot of tannins: I was expecting to get somethin like army green, but instead got grey. In the first test dyeing (the smaller skein) there is a hint of green, but the bigger skein from the second batch is grey. Bummer. Maybe if I hadn't boiled the leaves so vigorously and long and thus not extracted so much tannin, the color would have been better? On the other hand perhaps the yellow is now more fast when the tannins had combined with flavonoids? I am going to put these yarns to lightfastness test next.. when we get some more sun:)
I liked the rhododendron leaves, I am sure they are much easier to pick than small marsh tea leaves and as they are bigger, you can get more dyestuff quicker:)
If the lightfastnesstests go as I expext, the leaves from rhododendrons seem very useful source of yellow colors. I'll post the results later.

12 comments:

Helen said...

Hi Leena nice colours and I really liked the grey! A long time ago we kept goats and one of our goats got out and nibbled one corner of rhododendron leaf and nearly died. I was told that if you put cut rhododendrons in a a glass, rinse the glass out , and then use to drink from you can die. So I am a bit concerned about using it.

Ladka said...

Hi Leena, I like the yellow colours you got with rhodo leaves. It is interesting that I got almost the same colour - the strong brownish yellow with alder tree leaves, and the lighter yellow on the very right with willow tree leaves. They are both easy to get by the riversides in Slovenia, but I don't know how easy they are to get for you ?
As regards the two greys you got on wool using iron afterbath: I got a strong grey on cotton with green wallnuts. It is a MYSTERY to me where it came from since it gave deep dark brown on wool. But then, the afterbaths also gave yellowish colours, so in my eyes green wallnuts are a treasure of dyes - even approaching St. John's Wort which is absolutely the queen - in my experience so far.

Leena said...

Thank you Helen and Ladka:)
I'll be careful with rhodo leaves. ere the deer have eaten some leaves from my small plants (and moles can climb and eat the flower buds, so I,m told), so maybe there are differences in different species. Marsh tea has been used for medicinal purposes, but it is not recommended any more, because it can be toxic! I doubt though that it can kill so easily as it has been used as a tea.

We have a lot of tree leaves to use also, but I have gotten only pale to golden yellows from them, not the strong brownish yellow.. so more experimenting to do there, I think:) Thanks for the tip. Tree leaves are so easy to get!
Walnut trees (Juglans) are very rare here, so I have tried only once with bought walnut hulls, dark brown would be a very nice color:)

Nomad said...

Hi, I love the shades of orange/yellow that you got from those leaves! Do you know the genus/species that you were using?

Woolly Bits said...

Leena, I tried to grow Ledum palustre from seeds a while ago - but nothing happened. lateron I read that they don't grow all that easily from seeds - and anyway, they supposedly need more acid soils than I can provide. we do have a few very small rhododendrons in the garden - but again the soil should really be more acidic. they do grow into massive walls of green (with lovely light purple flowers!) further to the west though... if your soil is acidic enough for rhododendrons etc. - why don't you try to grow some gunnera tinctoria too? though I didn't try out which part of the plant dyes yet....

Christine Vivian said...

Hi! Your yarns turned out beautifully. Thanks for providing the English translation. I'm glad to meet another natural dyer. I look forward to reading more about your experiences.

Ilene Lollis said...

My rhododendron has many dark pink flowers on it right now. Have you ever dyed wool from the flowers?

Leena said...

Thanks for the comments:)
It is so nice to get them even if I am now too busy to write anything new:(

Nomad, my friend from whom I got the leaves has many hundreds different species and cultivars, so these were a mixture, but the biggest ones are the Finnish cultivars which have R.brachycarpum ssp tigerstedtii as a parent so I suspect a big part of the leaves were from them, but there were also leaves with indumentum beneath the leaves so they came from different species. I think different species might give different shade of yellows.

Bettina, I have found that Rhododendrons are very easy to germinate: you sow them on top of peat (or other acidic medium) and don't cover the seeds. They germinate after two weeks in 20C, but they are very small for a long time. http://www.rhododendron.org/v48n1p10.htm The best page how to grow them is in Finnish, unfortunately http://www.rhodogarden.com/plantcare/kylvo.html

I haven't tried Gunnera tinctoria, it looks like a realy nice plant in pictures, like a giant rhubarb. I'm not sure it survives our winters? It's interesting to hear what color you get from it. Does your gunnera plants produce seeds? Maybe we could exchange some seeds?

Ilene, I haven't tried with Rhododendron flowers, but I suspect they give yellow, like many plants. Reds or pinks from flowers are not very fast colors, even if you manage to get them.. but of course I don't know really, so go ahead and try, so then we'll know:)

Woolly Bits said...

Leena, sorry, I am quite late in answering.... I checked my gunnera plant, but I think the huge flower/seed stalk has rotted away during the winter:( I'll keep my eyes open for the next one... and you're right, I am not sure what kind of winter temperatures it can stand - after all the irish winter over here rarely goes below 5 or 6 deg.C minus.... I should switch my brain cells on before typing:))

Leena said...

Bettina, I was late answering:)
Remember me next autumn if you get seeds, please:)

Anonymous said...

Hello, have just discovered your wonderful blog! All parts of rhododendrons are poisonous, the wood shouldn't be burnt on an open fire because the smoke is toxic to inhale . . . draw your own conclusions!

Leena said...

Hi, you must mean Rhododendron ponticus, which is poisonous. It is not hardy in Finland and doesn't grow here. There are differences in the Rhododendron species. Ledum palustre which is related to Rhododendrons, is traditionally used for dyeing in Scandinavia, and also as herbal medicine.