Several forms of anchusa (also known as alkanna, alcanea, and bugloss) grow wild in Europe, including Britain. A red dye from the root was popular with Egyptians in textile dyeing and also used for cosmetics in Greece and Rome.
It is a plant that grows to about 2 feet high with very hairy stems and large forget-me-not type flowers that bloom in June.
Anchusa was cultivated in Europe specifically as a dye plant, but North American settlers also used it for medicinal purposes. However madder was a much more suitable and fast red dyestuff and was used for dyeing by European settlers in preference to anchusa. However the latter was probably used by the native Indians.
Was this article helpful?