Plants and Trees That Yield Natural Dyes Part 2


Common name is bignay. Local names: bignay kalabaw (Tagalog); bugnay (Ilocos, Bontok, Ibanag, Bisaya); bugney, buglay (Bontok, Ifugao); bundey, vunnai (Ibanag); dokodoko, nutagtamanuk (Bagobo); isip (Pampanga); oyhip (Sambali); bitaog, dalimdiman (Bukidnon); paginga, pagiruga (Ibanag).

Bignay is an attractive, dioecious shrub or a small tree 4 to 10 m high. Leaves are small, dark green, shiny, alternate, pointed at the tip, rounded or pointed at the base. Flowers are small, green and odorous. Fruit is thin-skinned, spherical to ovoid, dark red when ripe, small, juicy, sour and well flavored. It contains a single flat seed. There are 20 to 25 or more fruits per cluster.

It grows in Sri Lanka, southern India, eastern Himalaya, Burma (Myanmar), Indo China, southern China, Thailand, the Malesian region excluding Malaysian Peninsula and mot of Borneo (recorded in Banggi Island only) and Australia (Queensland). Possibly not native to the Philippines. Widely cultivated in Indonesia (mainly Java), Peninsular Malaysia, the Philippines and Indo China.

Economic Uses

  • Tree : ornamental, reforestation and weed suppressing species.
  • Leaves : young leaves are eaten as salad, sometimes used as substitute for tomato or vinegar flavor fish and meat stew.
  • Leaves and bark : contains alkaloid and applied externally (though also reported as poisonous) e.g., to relieve fever and treat smallpox or body swellings.
  • Wood : temporary construction, poles, posts, fence posts, walking sticks and tool handles.
  • As dye : fruit is a source of blue dye.

Site Requirements and Propagation

Found in the understorey of primary or secondary, lowland to montane rain forest, up to 1,800 m altitude. They grow on a wide variety of soils including alluvial flats, clayey soils, peaty soils, volcanic soils, podzols and limestone.

Seeds, grafting or budding, stem cutting and marcotting. Depulped and fried fruits may be stored for 2 to 5 years in airtight containers. There are 28,000 dry seeds/kg. The seeds need one month after ripening and can then be sown under shade without pretreatment. Fresh seeds, however, need a pretreatment with sulfuric acid for 15 minutes followed by soaking in water for 4 hours. Seed viability of bignay is 3 to 30% germination. Germination takes 30 to 60 days. Bignay is known to flower from April to June. Generally, the main fruiting season is from July to August.


A tree reaching a height of 6 to 15 m. The leaves are leathery, shining, 12 to 25 cm long. The flowers are white, large, showy, and about 15 cm in diameter. The fruit which is rounded, is 5 to 6 cm in diameter. Fruit is fleshy, green and edible with a flavor somewhat similar to a green sour apple. It is found throughout the Philippines and common in forests at low and medium altitudes. Propagation is by seeds.

A red dye is obtained from the bark.


Common name is langka or nangka (Jack fruit)

A yellow dye is obtained by boiling mature wood or sawdust, and is used for dyeing garments.


Common name is malunggay. Local names: arungai (Pangasinan); balungai (Visayas); dooi (Pampanga, Visayas); kalamungai (Panay, Visayas); kalungai (Pampanga, Tagalog, Bicol); komkompilan; marunggai (Ilocos, Ifugao); horse radish tree (English).

Three is used as fencing materials and support of black pepper vines. Young leaves, flowers and young pods are eaten as vegetables. Roots are used for seasoning. The bark exudes a reddish gum which is used for tanning. As dye: The wood is a source of blue dye.

For more information, contact

Department of Environment and Natural Resources
Central Office: Visayas Avenue, Diliman, 1100 Quezon City
Telephone: (02) 929-6626
Email: [email protected]

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