I planted Toadflax one year because it is an unusual herb and I liked the name. When I did some research, I found it had a bunch of other very cool names. Like –
Pattens and Clogs (pattens being a shoe worn in the Middle Ages),
Dragon-bushes (oh ppllleeeaasssse, let me find a little dragon under them!!),
Larkspur Lion's Mouth,
Eggs and Collops (in Elizabethan times, collops referred to slices of bacon),
Gallwort, Rabbits, Doggies, Calves' Snout, and Monkey Flower.
Are those just not great! Personally, I’d call it Dragon-bushes but, I like dragons.
Toadflax, a member of the snapdragon family, is an annual or perennial depending on where you live. It was once a very popular cottage-garden flower but it has escaped to wild and is mostly considered a weed – no, no – a wildflower! (Might this be what we see off Hwy59 to El Campo???)
Plants can be short lived, especially in soils that don't drain well, but they self-sow and seedlings generally bloom the first year. Most nurseries recommend planting them in full sun, however our full sun here can be brutal come July. I planted mine in bright shade and they did well. Toadflax is happiest in a light, sandy soil. It will tolerate some dryness but needs to be watered regularly during prolonged dry spells. Cut it back after flowering to encourage it to bloom again. Mine bloomed in March, April, and early May. After that it was a weedy looking shrubby plant that waited until the next spring. Ultimately, it froze during the 2005 snow. Since then, I’ve not been able to find it again – boohoo.
Toadflax has distinctive lip-like flowers arranged in a spire on many short stalks. The flowers are usually yellow with orange throats (but you can also find them in red, white, violet, pink, purple) and have a long spur or two. The flowers are very attractive to bees and the leaves are a food plant for Lepidoptera larvae.
Interesting. So, why is this an herb?
Yellow Toadflax has a long history of medicinal use. It was used for digestive and urinary tract disorders. It was also used as a laxative, to reduce swelling, relieve water retention (acting as a diuretic), and a treatment for cancer and scurvy. In some cases, it was applied directly to the skin for hemorrhoids, wounds, skin rashes, and foot ulcers.
“A cooling ointment is made from the fresh plant - the whole herb is chopped and boiled in lard till crisp, then strained. The result is a fine green ointment, a good application for piles, sores, ulcers and skin eruptions.”
Toadflax was imported to the US in the early 1800 to be used for the making of a beautiful yellow dye.
1 Collect flowers when they are fresh and at their peak of color.
2 Chop all plant materials into small pieces and place into a large pot or pan that you are willing to sacrifice to the cloth dyeing craft. You will not be able to use it for cooking again.
3 Measure the amount of plant material and place twice as much water as plant material into the pot with the plant material.
4 Bring the mixture to a boil and then simmer it, stirring occasionally, for at least an hour.
5 Strain out the plant material and set the dye bath aside.
6 Place your fabric into a color fixative bath such as salt water (1 part salt to 16 parts water) or a vinegar bath (1 part vinegar to 4 parts water).
7 Allow the fabric to absorb the color fixative mix and simmer it for an hour.
8 Remove the fabric from the fixative and wring it out thoroughly.
9 Place the wet fabric into the dye mixture and simmer it until the desired color is achieved. The dry product will be lighter than the wet product, so go for a slightly darker color when wet.
10 Remove the fabric from the dye bath with rubber gloves. (You want to dye the cloth, not your hands.)
Additionally, it is used for general protection and breaking hexes. You never know what works!