As Kermit the Frog has so often told us, “It’s not easy being green.” Likely, one of the reasons for this is that the shade is almost fully dependent on other colors—blue and yellow—to exist. So dependent in fact, that in some ancient languages and texts, green and blue are referred to by the same name.

Plants and vegetation are often what first springs to mind when we think of the color, so it’s no surprise that the modern English “green” derives from the Anglo-Saxon grene, the Germanic language root of which is the same as that for the words root, grass, and grow. But while the word itself is beholden to vegetation, green plants themselves are unable to yield a stable pigment that produces a green color as beautiful as those found in nature. Chlorophyll gives green plants their color but when using plants in dyeing the shades are more akin to brown than green. Early dyers produced the color by overdyeing these shades with blue or by mixing blue and yellow pigments to create green. Since the exact shade produced relies heavily on those of the blues and yellows used to mix it, greens can range from pale celadon or eau-de-nil to bright apple or deep teal and on to dark muddied shades like hunter or olive drab.