Dyer’s greenweed is a UK native, deciduous shrub found in unimproved hay meadows.
Growing to 90 cm tall by 100 cm wide with woody, branched stems and alternate sessile lance shaped leaves. The golden yellow pea-like flowers are borne in erect narrow racemes from spring to early summer. The fruit is a long, shiny pod shaped like a green bean pod.
As both its Latin and common names suggest, Genista tinctoria has been used to create a yellow dye for fabric and wool since ancient times. When combined with woad (satis tinctoria) the dye also provides a green colour.
The plant has been used in popular and herbal medicine even in modern times for various complaints, including skin diseases.
It is believed that extracts of this plant can be applied externally to help heal fractures, tumours, and open wounds. It is thought to act as a stimulant – increasing alertness and energy and also to boost a person's mood. In fact, the chemical makeup of Genista tinctoria is thought to be similar to some narcotics. In addition, the entire plant is sometimes used to treat gout and rheumatism. It is important to note that scientific research has not proven it safe to use, or effective as a medicinal treatment.
The Millennium Seed Bank safeguards practically the entire British flora in its vaults, including Genista tinctoria. In addition, this plant is part of the Magical Meadows Festival at Wakehurst, where you can see this and many other UK native species growing in Bloomer’s Valley.