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Printing with dye from leaves

Use the green colour of plants as a dye to make a greeting card
Science content (2016 curriculum): 
Biology: Features, Adaptations of Living Things (K, 1, 3, 7)
Biology: First People’s sustainable use of Living Things (K, 2, 3)
Chemistry: First People’s Materials/Separation methods (1, 6)
Chemistry: Atoms, Molecules (3-7)
  • Ferns
  • Cloth squares
  • Tape
  • Hammer/rock
  • Wooden board to hammer on
  • Newspaper to protect board or table
  • Cards with window cut out
  • Glue

Lay pieces of fern on a piece of the cloth in a design you like.
Tape the ferns to the cloth. Make sure they are completely covered with tape.
Use the hammer, or a rock, to pound the ferns onto the cloth. Smash the ferns completely, so their colour transfers to the cloth.
Peel the tape and ferns off the cloth.
Open the card and put a few drops of glue around the edge of the window.
Lay your cloth fern design over the window, so that it is held in place by the glue.
A beautiful card made form a natural dye!

What's going on?
The green colour in the fern leaves is called chlorophyll. In living plants, chlorophyll traps the sun's energy for plants to grow.
The First Nations have been making dyes from plants for a long time. The leaves, petals, bark and seeds of plants have all been used to make different dye colours.


Pink rhododendron petals also work well, and their colour lasts for a while.

Grades taught: 
Gr K
Gr 1
Gr 2
Gr 3
Gr 4
Gr 5
Teaching site: 
Van Dusen Botanical Garden