Open the Advanced Search


Isatis tinctoria

Please keep in mind that it is illegal to uproot a plant without the landowner's consent and care should be taken at all times not to damage wild plants. Wild plants should never be picked for pleasure and some plants are protected by law.
For more information please download the BSBI Code of Conduct PDF document.


Plant Profile

Flowering Months:
Brassicaceae (Cabbage)
Also in this family:
Alpine Pennycress, Alpine Rock-cress, American Wintercress, Annual Wall Rocket, Austrian Yellowcress, Awlwort, Bastard Cabbage, Black Mustard, Bristol Rock-cress, Charlock, Common Scurvygrass, Common Whitlowgrass, Coralroot, Creeping Yellowcress, Cuckooflower, Dame's-violet, Danish Scurvygrass, Dittander, Early Wintercress, Eastern Rocket, English Scurvygrass, Evergreen Candytuft, False London Rocket, Field Pennycress, Field Pepperwort, Flixweed, Garden Arabis, Garden Candytuft, Garden Cress, Garden Radish, Garden Rocket, Garlic Mustard, Glabrous Whitlowgrass, Gold of Pleasure, Great Yellowcress, Greater Cuckooflower, Greater Periwinkle, Greater Swinecress, Hairy Bittercress, Hairy Rock-cress, Hairy Rocket, Hairy Whitlowgrass, Hedge Mustard, Hoary Cress, Hoary Mustard, Hoary Stock, Hoary Whitlowgrass, Honesty, Horseradish, Hutchinsia, Hybrid Watercress, Intermediate Periwinkle, Isle of Man Cabbage, Large Bittercress, Lesser Swinecress, London Rocket, Lundy Cabbage, Marsh Yellowcress, Mountain Scurvygrass, Narrow-fruited Watercress, Narrow-leaved Bittercress, Narrow-leaved Pepperwort, Northern Rock-cress, Northern Yellowcress, Oilseed Rape, Perennial Rocket, Perennial Wall Rocket, Perfoliate Pennycress, Pinnate Coralroot, Purple Rock-cress, Pyrenean Scurvygrass, Rock Whitlowgrass, Russian Rocket, Scottish Scurvygrass, Sea Kale, Sea Radish, Sea Rocket, Sea Stock, Shepherd's Cress, Shepherd's Purse, Small-flowered Wintercress, Smith's Pepperwort, Steppe Cabbage, Swede, Sweet Alyssum, Tall Rocket, Thale Cress, Tower Mustard, Treacle Mustard, Trefoil Cress, Turnip, Wall Whitlowgrass, Wallflower, Wallflower Cabbage, Warty Cabbage, Watercress, Wavy Bittercress, White Mustard, Wild Cabbage, Wild Candytuft, Wild Radish, Wild Turnip, Wintercress, Yellow Whitlowgrass
Life Cycle:
Maximum Size:
150 centimetres tall
Cliffs, fields, wasteland.

Yellow, 4 petals
Trusses of many golden yellow flowers. Pollinated by insects.
Broad-winged, flattened, shiny pods. Brownish-purple. The seeds ripen in August and September.
Grey-green, arrow-shaped leaves which clasp their stems. The lower leaves are downy and upper leaves hairy. A biennial or perennial which can be found growing on chalky soils. The leaves produce a blue dye.
Other Names:
Asp of Jerusalem, Dyer's Woad, Glastum.
Frequency (UK):

Other Information


Isatis tinctoria, commonly known as woad or dyers woad, is a species of biennial or perennial herb in the mustard family. It is native to Europe, Asia, and North Africa, but has been introduced to other parts of the world as well. The plant is grown as a source of the blue dye, indigo. The leaves of the plant are used to produce the dye, which was traditionally used for textiles, and it has been used for centuries as a dye for fabrics, particularly in Europe and Asia. Woad was widely cultivated throughout the Middle Ages and into the early modern period as a source of indigo dye. The plant has been introduced to other parts of the world as well and it is also used in traditional medicine.


Woad: The Ancient Blue Dye

Woad, also known as Isatis tinctoria, is a plant that has been used for thousands of years to create blue dye. This plant is native to the Mediterranean and Asia, but it has been cultivated and used all over the world, including Europe, where it was highly valued for its beautiful blue color.

The process of making woad dye is relatively simple. The leaves of the plant are harvested, dried, and then ground into a powder. This powder is then mixed with water to create a paste, which is used to dye fabric or other materials. The resulting blue color is long-lasting and vibrant, making it a popular choice for centuries.

Woad was especially important in Europe during the Middle Ages, where it was used to dye clothing and textiles for royalty, clergy, and the wealthy. The plant was grown extensively in Europe, and the production of woad dye was a major industry in many countries. In fact, the trade of woad was so important that it was often taxed and regulated by governments.

However, the popularity of woad began to decline in the 16th century, as a new blue dye called indigo began to be imported from Asia. Indigo was easier to produce and had a brighter, more consistent blue color, making it a more attractive option for many dye-makers. Over time, the use of woad declined, and it is now a relatively rare plant.

Despite this, woad continues to be used today by some artisans and natural dye enthusiasts. The plant is still grown in some areas, and its blue dye is still prized for its natural beauty and unique color. For those interested in natural dyeing, woad is a fascinating and important plant with a rich history and cultural significance.

Woad is a plant with a long and fascinating history as a source of blue dye. Its use has declined over time, but it continues to be valued by those who appreciate its natural beauty and cultural significance. Whether you're an artist, a natural dye enthusiast, or simply curious about the past, woad is an interesting and important plant to explore.

Woad has been experiencing a resurgence in popularity in recent years, as more and more people are turning to natural dyes for their clothing and textiles. While synthetic dyes are convenient and easily accessible, they can have negative environmental and health impacts, making natural dyes a more sustainable option.

One of the main benefits of woad is that it is relatively easy to grow, even in regions where other natural dyes might not be available. This makes it a great option for those who want to create their own natural dyes at home, or for communities and organizations that want to promote sustainable and local dyeing practices.

Woad also has a unique and beautiful blue color that is difficult to match with other natural dyes. This color is created by a compound called indigotin, which is only found in woad and a few other plants. The shade of blue that woad produces can vary depending on the growing conditions, the time of year the plant is harvested, and the method used to extract the dye, making each batch of woad dye unique and special.

In addition to its environmental and cultural benefits, woad has also been used for centuries for medicinal purposes. The plant has been used to treat a variety of conditions, including skin problems, digestive issues, and respiratory ailments. While the efficacy of these remedies is still the subject of scientific investigation, some people continue to use woad for its potential health benefits.

Woad is also a great choice for those who want to experiment with natural dyeing. While other natural dyes can be more challenging to work with, woad is relatively easy to use and produces a beautiful, long-lasting blue color. There are a variety of techniques and recipes for using woad, so you can experiment to find the method that works best for you.

Woad is a versatile and valuable plant with a rich history and cultural significance. Whether you're interested in natural dyeing, sustainable fashion, or simply exploring the world of natural remedies, woad is a fascinating and valuable plant to learn about and use. So, go ahead and embrace the renaissance of this ancient blue dye!

Woad has played an important role in the cultural and historical development of many societies throughout the world. As a source of blue dye, woad has been used for centuries to create clothing, textiles, and other items that are rich in cultural significance.

One of the most famous uses of woad dye is in the production of the famous blue-dyed garments worn by the ancient Celts. The Celts were known for their love of bright, eye-catching colors, and they used woad to create stunning blue garments that were symbols of their culture and heritage. Today, the blue of the ancient Celts remains a symbol of the cultural richness and heritage of this fascinating group of people.

In Europe, woad was also used to dye the robes of the clergy and the clothing of royalty, making it a symbol of wealth, power, and status. The use of woad dye was often regulated by governments and controlled by powerful trade organizations, making it a valuable and sought-after commodity. The cultural significance of woad was so strong that it even played a role in the formation of national identities, as countries competed to produce the best quality woad dye.

In addition to its use in clothing and textiles, woad has also been used in many other ways throughout history. For example, it was used to create inks, paints, and other forms of pigment, and it was even used as a body paint by some indigenous cultures. The cultural significance of woad extends far beyond its role as a source of blue dye, making it a fascinating and valuable plant to learn about.

Today, woad is experiencing a resurgence in popularity as more and more people are turning to natural dyes and looking to the past for inspiration. For those who are interested in cultural and historical significance, woad is a valuable and fascinating plant to explore. Whether you're interested in natural dyeing, sustainable fashion, or simply learning about the past, woad is an important and valuable part of our cultural heritage.

In conclusion, woad is a plant with a rich cultural and historical significance that has played an important role in the development of many societies throughout the world. Its use has declined over time, but it continues to be valued by those who appreciate its natural beauty and cultural significance. So, if you're interested in exploring the cultural significance of a blue dye, be sure to learn more about woad!

Distribution Map

Reproduced by kind permission of the BSBI.

Click to open an Interactive Map