Natural Dye Notebook :: No. 30, Mimosa

Posted by Erin Howe on

Aspiring crazy plant persons, I offer you this advice: find yourself a partner who, when you plunge into the woods behind the restaurant with your clippers clutched to your chest on a date, just laughs. Even better would be someone who goes woods-plunging with you, but let’s not wish for the moon. There are those who would be embarrassed or discouraging. Laughing is a good outcome.

The mimosa tree, with its pretty pink flowers and sensitive leaves, is wickedly invasive in North America. So it seemed that no one would begrudge me the clipping I took from an overgrown specimen on the fringe of the halfway abandoned parking lot behind the steakhouse. 

Sometimes, though, it’s only in one of these precarious places that I find my first specimen, the one I take home and make my dyed swatches with. As it turns out, finding mimosa is as easy as looking anywhere people have turned their backs on the edge of the woods for a while. 

The leaves make a bright yellow on cardstock and the twill ribbon and softer yellows on the other cellulose fibers:

But when left overnight:

How delightful, the dye becomes peach. 

The bark was rather disappointing:

Each time I dye a set of swatches, though, it opens up new avenues for exploration. Sometimes I note that I need to try boiling the pot or not boiling it. Sometimes I want to try more dyestuff and see what happens. This time, the bark I used was very green, from new wet growth, and I’d like to see what more mature bark does in the pot before writing mimosa bark off and only using the leaves. With river birch, the older bark was useless, the young bark the only stuff with dye in it. Could mimosa be the other way around?

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