Toadflax, Linaria vulgaris
The distinctive shape of toadflax flowers prevents many insect species from getting at the nectar. Only bumblebees and a few species of moth can get mead from the plant, in the process pollinating its flowers.
On summertime walks it’s possible, and safe, to drink the sickly-sweet nectar from toadflax flowers. The flowers themselves are also edible, and are suitable for garnishing almost all kinds of dishes and as decorations. The flowers of the toadflax can also be used for dyeing woollen yarn yellow, orange or green.
Something to try
Dyeing woollen yarn yellow
100 g dried or 1 kg of fresh toadflax flowers
10 g of alum (a binding agent that helps the dye to be retained by the yarn)
100 g woollen yarn
Preparing the dye
Chop the toadflax flowers into small pieces, put them in a bowl or pot and add enough water to just cover them. Boil on a low heat for an hour.
Pour the mixture through a sieve to remove the plant material.
Add enough cold water to give 3-5 litres of dye.
Add the alum to the dye and stir well.
Wet the woollen yarn with lukewarm water and add the dye.
Slowly bring the mixture to boiling point over a low heat, stirring occasionally for about an hour.
After that, rinse the yarn thoroughly and allow it to dry in a shaded place.
The leftover dye can be used again. When reusing, add another 5g of the alum binding agent, and use the dye in the same way as before. Yarns that are coloured with reused toadflax dye are paler shades than yarns coloured with freshly made dye.
Gathering the plants
Toadflax blossoms from July until September.
Other interesting facts
In the past, toadflax flowers were used to make insect repellent by adding crushed toadflax to boiling hot milk.