From Edwin Haviland Miller's Salem Is My Dwelling Place, University of Iowa Press, 1991, pp. 35-36.
The Story of Woodwax
Jeanne Stella, Wildflower consultant for the Friends of Salem Woods
Woodwax is a common name for Dyer's Greenweed (Latin name, Genista
tinctoria). Gov. John Endicott brought Dyer's Greenweed to our country in
1628, requested by the colonists as a necessary dye plant. They used it to dye
both flax and wool yellow. Gov. Endicott brought the plant as packing material
for his household items. Upon arrival, when unpacking his belongings, he threw
the plant out upon the soil where it rooted, grew, and soon spread across Essex
County, becoming a pest plant that no one seemed to know how to get rid of. Its
yellow blooms could be seen far and wide. Now, it occupies a very respectable
place in the Salem Woods. It is not an invasive weed at this point. It must have
been curtailed by civilization, with accompanying construction of buildings (cement
does have a way of confronting wildlife!). Some people still use "Dyer's Greenweed"
to dye cloth yellow. More on this plant can be found on the Internet or by visiting
the Salem Public Library and researching in the Salem Room in the old horticulture
books--especially the one written by Robinson.