Natural Dye Notebook No. 28, Bradford/Callery Pear

Posted by Erin Howe on

It’s the tree that everyone who’s even a little plant-educated loves to hate. Bradford pears in people’s yards become the thorned, ubiquitous Callery pears when cross-pollinated and distributed by birds. Callery pear is “one of the most aggressive invasive plants we have in South Carolina,” according to Clemson. I’m told the three-inch thorns can go straight through tractor tires. 

So I wouldn’t suggest planting Bradford pear in your dye garden, and in fact I believe it’s going to be illegal to sell here soon. But if you want the colors that Bradford or Callery pear can produce, at least in South Carolina, it should be dead easy to find them. 

The leaves gave me peachy browns. I did discover that not boiling the dyepot is important after I did these, so they may give a clearer, less brown color if kept at a lower temperature. I’ll have to come back and post an update when I do another pot of pear leaves. 

Muted pinks from the bark, turning redder overnight. 

An interesting comparison can be made with linen swatches:

The swatch on the left is pear bark dye left out overnight and then used to dye the linen. Then the left part of that swatch was dipped in soda water, giving it the pinker, less peachy color. The swatch on the right is pear bark dye used after the bark had a 1 hour simmer. The left part of it was then dipped in soda water, giving it the peachy color. So, the peachy color of the soda-dipped immediate dyed swatch is the same as the overnight swatch without having been soda-dipped. 

So. When you or a neighbor cuts one of these down, as surely you eventually will find yourself doing, rejoice! You’ve just scored a lifetime supply of pink dye.

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