Nitrogen-fixing deciduous perennial shrub native to heaths, open woodlands and meadows in Europe and Turkey. It grows to a height of 60-90cm, and has upright stems with inconspicuous leaves. It is not a particularly striking plant, however the loose clusters of bright yellow, pea-like flowers in spring and summer are bright and cheery and are extremely attractive to bees and butterflies.
As the name suggests, the plant yields dyes – both yellow and also a very good quality green when mixed with woad. The dye comes from all parts of the plant but predominantly the flowers. A fibre can also be obtained from the plant and a strong cloth was traditionally made from this in Spain and Italy. The flower buds are also edible and can be pickled like capers.
The plant has been used in popular medicine and herbalism for various complaints, including skin diseases, even in modern times. The medicinal parts are the twigs, leaves and flowering stems, which have are cathartic, diaphoretic, diuretic, emetic, stimulant and vasoconstrictor properties. It was from this plant that the anti-inflammatory isoflavone genistein was first isolated in 1899; hence the name of the chemical compound. The plant is harvested in early summer as it comes into flower and can be dried for later use.
Suitable for a sunny site, drought hardy. Useful early coloniser in a food forest system; will be shaded out eventually.
Certified organic one year old plant in 9cm pot.
Main photo: https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Dyer%27s_Greenweed_Monchique_Portugal_23.02.16_(25233185685).jpg