Osage Orange

Osage orange is an excellent dye for over-dyeing, as it produces good greens with woad and indigo.  It can be over-dyed with Saxon Blue for beautiful teal and emerald greens.  On its own it gives yellows.

Osage Orange (Maclura pomifera) is a native tree in the U.S and once discovered by early European settlers, it was prized and an agricultural hedge program between 1855 and 1875 was begun to plant the species for hedges for grazing animals.  It has escaped cultivation and is naturalized in many areas.  I know of a few near me!  I read that the fruits, while not traditionally used, can be used as a natural dye, since the fruits are easily recognized and collected in the fall. 

I read on a few natural dyer sites that the wood is high in tannins and can be used as a substantive dye.  I have not tested this, and there is much faulty information on natural dyeing in books and online.  The heart wood may well contain tannins, but I don’t want to say that without a reliable source to back that up.  I read that the bark and most often the root bark was the tannin source used for leather work, and the osage orange chips are the heart wood, so I don’t want to extrapolate that say that the wood is as tannin rich as the bark. 

Osage orange is not a citrus or an orange tree.  It is sometimes referred to as a hedge apple tree, horse apple, mock orange or yellow wood tree.  The most commonly used name is Osage-orange, named after the Osage native American nation, and as such, should be capitalized. 

Osage-orange is one of two species in its genus. It is a member of the mulberry family, Moraceae, which contains mulberries and figs.  A related species of tree is Maclura or Chrlorophora tinctoria is known as Old Fustic, or Dyer’s Mulberry tree, which is also used as a dye wood and it’s wood was also used to dye military uniforms. 

The most important dye chemical in the wood is morin and the fruit contains osajin and pomiferin. 

Soak the wood chips overnight in water, and then simmer in a dye pot to release the dye.  You can strain the chips out before adding your wool or simmer your wool with the chips still in.