There are so many wild plants, living close to our homes that make a natural dye. Often, they are right under our noses.
Cow parsley is one of these. A very pretty plant with a not so pretty name and often left alone because people don’t want to confuse it with Hemlock, the famous poison of the Victorians.
We love the beauty of cow parsley and once you feel comfortable identifying it, encourage you to experiment.
It is one of the first Apiaceae to bloom. This family is also known as umbellifers because of their umbrella like flowers. Perfect for fairies to hide from the rain.
Well perhaps not fairies, but it certainly provides a refuge for a large number of creatures. These range from marmalade hoverflies to orange tip butterflies.
Other plants you find in this family are parsley, carrot and celery to name a few of the astonishing 3000 species.
It grows well in gardens, roadways, lanes and you will be sure to see it blooming from May to June.
How to Identify:
The main differences between hemlock and cow parley are:
Hemlock is a little darker in colour
Hemlock leaves are more feathery and finer.
Hemlock has a sheen to its leaves rather than the matt of cow parsley.
Hemlock has blotchy purple stems but when young can be greener.
Hemlock has no hairs on the stem where cow parsley has a hairy stem.
Cow parsley leaves smell of parsley when crushed. Hemlock smells of ammonia when crushed.
Pick double the weight of flowers and stems to fabric.
Chop them up roughly with scissors and place in a pan.
Cover the plant with enough water to cover and bring to the boil.
Simmer for an hour then turn off heat and allow the plant to steep for a few hours or until desired colour achieved.
Strain your flowers and add your mordanted fabric.
Cow Parsley creates fresh, subtle lemon and lime shades.