Economic Botany

, Volume 58, Supplement 1, pp S66–S76 | Cite as

Ethonobotany and sustainable utilization of natural dye plants in Sierra Leone

  • Cyrus Macfoy


An ethnobotanical survey of practicing dyers in the biodiversity rich ecosystems of Sierra Leone and of the literature was conducted on the common plant species used to produce natural dyes. In addition, the methods used to obtain these dyes and to dye fabric, together with the techniques used to produce various patterns on fabric were investigated. Although the thriving dye industry is now predominantly serviced by synthetic dyes, the knowledge of the plants used still survives among some dyers, who use plant dyes to some extent. However this indigenous knowledge is rapidly being lost as increasingly less of it is being passed on to succeeding generations. Several plants used in the dyeing process are documented, together with their taxonomic characteristics; local names; how the dyes are produced and fabric dyed; the colors obtained; in addition to how various patterns are designed. Sustainable utilization of this important renewable natural resource is discussed.

Key Words

indigenous knowledge ethnobotany natural dyes plant species colors sustainable utilization 

Ethnobotanique et utilisation durable de plantes tinctoriales en Sierra Leone


Cette étude ethnobotanique porte sur les teinturiers exerçant en Sierra Leone, pays doté d’écosystèmes riches en biodiversité, et recense les espèces végétales souvent utilisées dans la production de teintures naturelles, ainsi que les publications y afférentes. De plus, elle examine les méthodes d’extraction des teintures, de coloration des tissus et de création des divers motifs. Bien que cette industrie florissante utilise principalement des teintures synthétiques, certains teinturiers connaissent encore les plantes servant à produire des teintures naturelles. Mais ce savoir disparaît rapidement, car il est de moins en moins transmis aux générations futures. L’étude présente plusieures plantes utilisées dans la fabrication des teintures, ainsi que leurs caractéristiques taxinomiques, leurs noms locaux, les méthodes de production des teintures et de teinture des tissus, les couleurs obtenues, et la conception des motifs. Elle envisage enfin l’exploitation durable de cette importante ressource renouvelable.

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Copyright information

© The New York Botanical Garden 2004

Authors and Affiliations

  • Cyrus Macfoy
    • 1
  1. 1.Biology DepartmentAmerican UniversityWashington DCU.S.A.

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