Ink derived from Chrozophora tinctoria

Post anything you like about the flora of the Maltese islands.

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Ink derived from Chrozophora tinctoria

Post by MWP admin » Thu Sep 06, 2007 7:40 pm

Chrozophora tinctoria


Chrozophora tinctoria is a rather frequent plant in some localities in Malta especially those close to arable land. It is a summer flowering plant of the Euphorbia family.

The tiny flowers (males and females separated on same plant) are inconspicuous, but the fruit has a rather peculiar shape - 3 spherical locules joined side by side.

The species epithet - 'tinctoria' simply means a dye or ink, since the plant gives a bluish dye. As far as in Medevial times, this plant was much used to derive ink.

You can easily extract your own ink at home from this plant, using the fruit. Take a dozen or two mature fruit (unripe = green, mature = dark green, very ripe = nearly black) and add approx. as much volume of surgical spirit (or ideally ethanol) and same amount of boiling water.

Shake or mix constantly and you would see instantly a dark blue dye leaking out. Later, it becomes so concentrated that the liquid eventually turns black!

Pour the solution, or better to say, the tinture in an evaporating basin, cover and leave for few hours in the sun to evaporate and hence concentrate. Finally put some of the black liquid in a ink-refill pen, and you have some ink as used in medivial times.

If you acidify the solution with few drops of lemon or vinegear, you would have a different colour!


More info about this plant:
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Ink from Chrozophora tinctoria
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Stephen Mifsud
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woad there.....

Post by Glimbo » Sat Jan 26, 2008 8:41 pm

An interesting plant. Akin in it's uses to [/i]Isatis tinctora, which gives the blue body paint/dye known to early British peoples as 'Woad'. 8) g

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Post by llawrence » Sat Nov 15, 2008 4:56 pm

Hi all. I gave this ink a try after receiving some of the fruit shells. I used probably too much liquid for the amount of shells I had, but it turned out for the best, since in the diluted liquid I was able to observe the changes the color makes.

It started out a beautiful aqua color, then shifted fairly quickly to purple. I expected this, but didn't expect the following: overnight the color shifted all the way to maroon. I had thought that I would have to add something acidic to force the change to red. On rereading my sources I realize the opposite: if I wished the color to remain purple I'd have to add something alkaline. They used urine for this 600 years ago but I have some washing soda I'll try instead. 8)

Just for fun I went through with my original plan and added a few drops of vinegar, 5% acid. The color of the liquid is now a fairly bright rose. Quite happy with it, though I'll be happier once I can obtain all three colors. I have a very small amount to make a lake pigment, but I'm considering an attempt. Has anyone tried this?

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Post by llawrence » Sat Nov 15, 2008 5:14 pm

I wish I had taken photos throughout the color shift, but here is the final folium red:

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Post by MWP admin » Sat Nov 15, 2008 5:51 pm

Hi,

What solvent did you use for extracting the dye? Did you boil ?


I also messed with acid/alkali condition and got some great colour, and remeber that unlike several dye extracts, the red/mauve was achieved in alkaline conditions. Makes a good pH indicator!

I don't know but I thik the dye gets easily oxidised so keep your solution closed (or make some research on this personal observation)
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Post by llawrence » Sat Nov 15, 2008 9:35 pm

Hi Stephen: I boiled water and mixed it 50/50 with rubbing alcohol, which is about 70% ethanol. I could smell the alcohol in the dye solution until it evaporated off, and I believe this is when the hue began to shift.

I'm surprised by the alkaline for red, I had thought it was the other way around. Can't wait to play with some more of this stuff - it's quite a plant. Next time I will definitely experiment with the oxidation, thanks!

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