The Piedmont of North Carolina offers abundant dye plants growing wild in forests, fields, and even parking lots. Foraging dye plants is a wonderful, free way to source local color for your textiles. However, foraging must be done responsibly. Taking too much can harm ecosystems, and not all property owners will be excited about a stranger collecting plants on their land.
Here are some guidelines for responsible, ethical, and safe foraging:
- Only forage what is abundant.
- Take a small portion of what is available. Leave enough so the plant can propagate, serve as habitat and food for creatures, and be available for others to use.
- Just because it’s called a “weed” doesn’t mean it isn’t an important part of the ecosystem.
- Be aware of the land you are on. Get permission on private property. Don’t forage in city, state, or national parks/protected areas without explicit permission (acorns in city parks are probably okay).
- Be safe: watch out for cars, snakes, ticks, poison ivy, and people. Bring a friend or tell someone where you’re going.
- Good ideas for responsible foraging include asking for access to the yards/land of friends and neighbors; harvesting unwanted plants (English ivy, prunings, things poisonous to livestock); and harvesting from plants/plant parts that will soon be cut down or removed without being used (e.g., black walnuts that have fallen in a parking lot or street; flowers in a lot slated for development).