shopping: one variety
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Wholesale Alkanet

Batschia canescens
plant overview
alkanet for ruby red

Although this herb wasn’t widely used in Europe until the late 16th century, it quickly gained notoriety once it was discovered that the root could be used to make a reddish dye. Powdered alkanet root was a favorite cheek blusher in later years.

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Alkanet, the ruby red dye herb

A Bit of Botany

a bit of botanical information about alkanet

Alkanet, a perennial or biennial (depending on conditions) belonging to the Boraginaceae family, is known for its natural ruby red dye. Alkanet typically forms a rosette of leaves the first year and flowers the second year.

Alkanet is about ½-1½' tall, and has a tendency to sprawl across the ground. The stems are covered with long white hairs. The leaves have sparse white hairs on their upper sides, hairs along their margins, and a white "fur" on their undersides. The alternate leaves are about 1-2" long and are oblong with rounded tips. The bright yellow to yellow-orange flowers occur in showy clusters at the ends of the stems. Each flower is narrowly tubular, with 5 rounded lobes that flare outward and there is no noticeable floral scent. The blooming period occurs during late spring and lasts about a month. The root system consists of a central taproot.

common names
& nomenclature

Alkanet comes from the Arabic al-hanna, which means "the henna", for the pink, red, or purple dye that is made from the plant. "Hoary Puccoon" is from the hairy (or hoary) appearance given off by the white hairs on the leaves and stems.

Also known as:
alkanet, bugloss, alkanna tinctoria, anchusa, spanish bugloss, dyer's bugloss, orchanet, common alkanet, and hoary puccoon

Where in the World

habitat and range for alkanet

Native to Southern Europe and Pakistan, cultivated in Central and Southern Europe.

Cultivation & Harvesting

considerations for growing alkanet

Habitats include evenly moist to dry black soil prairies, sand prairies, hill prairies, Bur Oak savannas, sandy Black Oak savannas, and limestone glades.

It requires moderately fertile, humus rich, moist but well drained soil.

To grow alkanet in the garden from seeds, sow the seeds during the spring in sandy soil in pots. Germination is aided by the overnight drop in temperature. Seeds normally germinate in about one to four weeks at an average temperature of about 21°C. As the alkanet plants grow and become large enough to handle by hand, each individual seedling must be transplanted into individual pots and then planted out in the soil during the summer months. An outdoor soil bed can also be used to sow the seeds during the month of July; this must be followed by the transplantation of the growing plants to where they will finally be fully grown early in the autumn season. Such plants tend to grow larger and flower earlier than the plants that were sown during the spring season.

Harvest the roots just before the plant flowers in the second year (typically only forms a rosette of leaves the first year).

Alkanet root is generally infused in carrier oil or extracted with alcohol. Store mixture in a glass container in a cool dry place.

For external use only, do not apply to broken skin.

for educational purposes only

This information has not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration.
This information is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease.

please be advised: 
Before making any changes to your diet you should always consult with your doctor,
especially if you are pregnant, nursing or have existing conditions.

PHOTO (TOP): ©2009, Kaldari, CCBY-SA 3.0