Monday, 12 October 2009

Kusagi Dying

Kusagi means "stink tree" in Japanese. It grows in my area off the sides of cliffs in swampy rocky dangerous places. Nondescript. The tree grows quickly for three to five years and then rots and dies. Hmmmm. It has a hydrangea like white flower in August and I take note of where the trees are as I drive by. In October the flowers have gone to a small blue black berries cuddled in red leaf frames. They last about a week before turning black. During this short window I gather them and use them as a dye. Like most berry dyes the color is not particularly fast. However it is particularly beautiful. You can dye light blues and over dye with pale yellow to get willow green. Gorgeous and rare colors in the vegetable dye world. The red frames dye a coppery color.


  1. I saw this post and realised that it is about a tree in my garden in England. The white flowers have a strong scent and in a hot summer attract humming bird hawk moths. I never thought of using them for dyeing. The berries are starting to form so they will be an experiment to look forward to.

  2. This is a weedy small tree that we plant for an incredibly fragrant ornamental here in Portland, Oregon, USA. It is Clerodendrum tricotomum (common name- Harlequin Glorybower). Glad to know that it is useful for dying. Beautiful work!

  3. Thank you for telling me the name in English. I searched around but never found anything. Yes, the dye is something I look forward to all year. It has become a bit of a tradition to gather the berries on a clear beautiful autumn afternoon and use them to dye the next day.