Eucalyptus gunnii

This magnificent Eucalyptus gunnii in our garden was grown from a seedling planted about 25 years ago & is now over 30 metres high. It is one of the most hardy varieties of eucalyptus & seems to thrive in our climate in the SE of England.

Dyes from eucalyptus leaves & bark can give pretty colours, usually ranging from tan & yellow through to rust & red. I believe there are species that give other colours too. In my experience, a dyebath from leaves or bark tends to take a long time to prepare, as it can take several hours of simmering to extract the colour. However, I have been advised by India Flint, an expert on eucalyptus dyeing, that prolonged simmering may dull the brilliance of the colours & that it is better to simmer for no longer than an hour before straining off the dye liquid. The fibres should then be steeped in the dye solution for several hours. Dyes from eucalyptus will fix without a mordant, although the use of an alum mordant usually deepens the colour.

One of the features of this tree is the way the bark sheds itself in large sections, revealing interesting silver, grey & green patches on the tree trunk. If I don’t manage to get to it first, my husband collects the fallen bark & uses it to start off a fire in his metal brazier. These fires are lit on the pretext of either needing to burn garden waste unsuitable for the compost heap or needing to dispose of letters etc which have our personal details on them. But I think he lights his fires for the sheer pleasure of spending a winter evening alone with his thoughts in the garden, enjoying the warmth of the blaze. And why not? Sometimes I join him & I can understand the attraction of this activity.

Details about my recent dyeings with the bark & leaves from this tree will follow. But don’t expect to see the reds that are apparently possible from this species of eucalyptus. I’m afraid they have eluded me so far. However, according to India Flint, eucalyptus is sensitive to the pH value & the mineral content of the water used for dyeing, so perhaps the reason for my failure to achieve red lies in the mineral content of our local water.

8 replies
  1. Martine
    Martine says:

    Jenny i’m looking forward to your details of dying with E. gunnii. At the moment i’m experimenting myself with what i think is the same species. I need to be sure because a tree has to be cut on behalve of a new garage. I may use all of it, but can i? Its only after the frosty period, so i have at least 4 weeks to experiment.

  2. Bettina
    Bettina says:

    I think some plants are also sensitive to the heat, i.e. climate in which they grow. I have the same species growing here (west of ireland) and I never managed to achieve reds, only beiges and rusty browns. people in the online guild joined discussions and we were told that the colours depend not only on the growing climate, but also on the time of picking/collecting – which is my experience with other plants as well. you can also try to ferment the leaves in a bucket somewhere – but beware, the smell isn’t exactly nice:)

  3. phylene
    phylene says:

    Hello there,

    Did you ever try to dye with Euca Robusta? I couln’t find any information about it.
    Is Euca gunnii the same as cenerea? I guess not, but the leaves look similar to me. What colour does Gunnii give?


    • says:

      No, Phylene, haven’t tried Euc. robusta. If you read the post on Euc. gunnii you will find details of the colours it gives.

  4. Tatiana
    Tatiana says:

    I ordered your book from UK couple of days ago,Jenny. Thank you so much for all information you published. I was wondering if I could use euca bark extract again and again. Will it affect the light fastness of my nunofelt? We have a lot of eucalyptus trees here in Cyprus and I'm experimenting a lot now. 

    • says:

      Thanks for your comment, Tatiana.
      As long as the colour results remain strong enough, I don’t see why you shouldn’t continue to use the extract several times. However, paler colours tend to be less lightfast, so be aware of that. You may find that, once the depth of colour has become considerably paler, the fastness will be correspondingly lower.

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