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Woad is me

December 5, 2012

It does not look like much does it? From little things…as they say.  This is the mighty woad plant…the ancient source of blue for cloth dyers in the British Isles.  It looks little because it is in its first year.  You can’t get dye from it until the second year.

I stumbled upon it (via a helpful label next to it) in the herb garden of Glastonbury Abbey, the ruined abbey where Arthur and Guinevere are said to be buried.  Apparently, Somerset was one of the medieval centres for woad cultivation in Britain but the industry declined with the importation of indigo and then died with the introduction of synthetic blue dye in the early 20th century.  Now, it is only cultivated for craft dyers or for medicinal purposes as it is here in Glastonbury, in this example of a monastery medicinal garden.

 

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