Chrozophora tinctoria

Synon: Croton tinctoria

Dyers croton                                                                                                  Χρωζοφόρα 

Euphorbiaceae - euphorbia family                                                                             Dicot.


A rather scruffy-looking plant, which is easily ignored; it tends to grow on disturbed sites, often those cleared for building, but Chrozophoria tinctoria, has interesting attributes. It has been identified as the plant referred to by Pliny as ‘tricoccum’ because of its three seeded fruits or ‘scorpiurus’ as the seeds resemble a scorpion tail. It was perceived as a protection against scorpion bites.1

A more convincing property is its use as the source of the dye known as turnsole or folium, which was used to colour foods, to dye fabric and has been identified as the source of purple-blue ink used in Medieval manuscripts.2 The dye was extracted from dried “berries”  and absorbed onto cloths, which were used to store the due for further use. Its colour varies, like litmus, in accordance with the pH from red to blue.

The plants have dull green leaves, insignificant yellow flowers and curious, green, warty fruits.

3-5mm,  12-30cm,,W                                      JAN FEB MAR APR MAY JUN JUL AUG SEP OCT NOV DEC

“Those who carry it about their person are never stung by a scorpion, and it is said that if a circle is traced on the ground around a scorpion with a sprig of this plant, the animal will never move out of it.”         Pliny the Elder.

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