During the time we spent in the desert we were constantly reminded of the biblical imagery that is so wonderfully found there. Until you’ve actually been in the desert, there’s no way to describe how hot and desolate it really is. A lizard can’t live there in the summer; it’s often in the 115° to 125° range.
One of the plants found there that is talked about in the Bible is the broom tree, or “Rottem”. It is one of the main shade trees of the desert. Although more of a bush than a tree, it was very important as shade to the early wilderness travelers. Its roots also produce a very hot fire and make the best charcoal available.
There are two Biblical stories that mention the broom tree. The first one was the story of Hagar and Ishmael in Genesis 21:8-20. Although the NIV says bush, the Hebrew is “Rikman” which is root word of “Rottem”. The second story involves Elijah in 1 Kings 19 and here it specifically says, “he came to a broom tree (Rottem) and sat under it.” These 2 stories both create a desert lesson involving heat and shade. In both cases, the heat was unbearable and overwhelming and the characters look like they were not going to survive it. But God came and provided a moment of shade in their desert experience, and they were able to continue on their life journey.
Broom Tree Closeup
The shape and size of the tree is itself a lesson. It is not a big tree at all, barely providing enough shade for one man and then not much. It’s not anything like what we Westerners would call a shade tree. The image of the broom tree is ,”just enough.” When you come to a desert moment in life, as Hagar and Elijah did and the heat is excruciating and your think you won’t be able to take another step, God is there to provide you a little shade to get you by. The image is not deep shade or air-conditioning, but just enough shade. The world we live in is one of intense heat, but around the bend is a broom tree, where we can get a little shade, a little rest, to be able to keep going on life’s journey. That leads us to the second part of the shade image, which I’m calling Shade II.
To be continued…
SECOND SUNDAY AFTER PENTECOST 23rd, 2019 1 KINGS 19:1-15
I remember my first professional football match. My dad took me. I was five years old. And it was magical. I was bewitched, ensnared by the world’s most loved game – raw in its passion, beautiful in its simplicity.
We lived in North London and our nearest top-tier club was Tottenham Hotspur, and that day they played Coventry City. I was not a fan of either of these teams, but that didn’t matter. I was going to a match. With my dad. We walked up the steps to the back of the terraced stand. In those days, crowd safety was not a big consideration and there were no seats in the part of the ground we had tickets for. Fans squeezed and pushed and shoved to get a good view from the terracing. I felt swamped by a tsunami of emotion – joy, tinged with fear, confusion, exhilaration, all mixed together with the excitement that floods the brain of a five-year old when he’s anticipating the greatest day of his short life.
Because I felt like a visitor from Lilliput, my dad lifted me to his shoulders, and I became the tallest giant in London. From there – the best seat in the house – I saw Tottenham’s first goal, and I thought I’d be swallowed up by the roar. I feared the roof would collapse; I was petrified. But I was other things too – bewitched, changed, and in love.
My first concert was very different. Everyone remembers the first concert. Mine was by my favorite band. But I was an awkward teenager, lacking in confidence and I didn’t know whether to sit or stand, and if to stand whether to dance or to clap, or nod in time to the music, or just feel self-conscious. I chose the last of these. The band was from my hometown. They weren’t very famous and they weren’t as cool as the bands the other kids at school liked. But they did have a couple of top 40 hits, including one in the US. Their name was as cryptic as most band names, and I never understood its meaning. That is until years later when I attended a Bible study. It was on today’s Old Testament lesson – First Kings 19. ‘After the Fire’ was the band’s name and they were Christians. Because the still small voice of God is not in the earthquake, not in the whirlwind, and not in the fire, but after the fire.
God is not in the flashy show, the cosmic rumbles, the disturbing phenomena. But when the hurricane has blown itself out, when the blaze has consumed its fuel, and the ground has stopped shaking, when there’s silence, and calm, and nothing – then the voice of God is heard.
And how Elijah needs that soft, gentle, healing voice. You wouldn’t know it from the passage, but Elijah is a mighty prophet, perhaps the greatest. He’s been speaking God’s word to King Ahab and Queen Jezebel of Israel, cruel rulers whose reign was marked by disregard for God and for the people they ruled over. The royal couple had presided over the oppression of the people they been called to serve, and Elijah was not backward in telling them so, despite the obvious threat to his life. And on top of that, when we pick up his story, he has just confronted the prophets of a religious cult that did not preach a God of love and did not encourage ethical lives. So now, having spoken truth to power, he has run away, and why not? Ahab and Jezebel are out to get him.
And here he sits, under a broom tree, and prays that God will kill him. Of course, he could easily fulfil his own prayer, and just go back to Ahab and Jezebel. They would be delighted to answer it. But instead Elijah sits under his broom tree and hurts, and grieves, and bleeds in his soul.
I wonder if you have broom tree. I wonder if you go there sometimes, sit under it, and submit to the demons of despair like Elijah. I wonder if you too have done great things for God or for humans; exerted yourself, stepped out in faith, put your time and energy on the line, achieved amazing results, and then crashed. Do you know that exhaustion that doesn’t just melt away with a good night’s sleep but that attaches to your body, mind and spirit, and like a creeping vine strangles the hope out of you? I wonder if you have been so low, and so unable to see a way up that you have even uttered Elijah’s prayer.
I have a broom tree. It’s my bed, at 4am. That’s when the demons of doubt and despair rise up and overwhelm me. The perspective from under my broom tree is so skewed and so out of focus, that the challenges of life take on a size that makes them seem invincible. From where I lie, under my broom tree, my resources are so puny that there’s no way I can survive the onslaught of the demons. I lose faith in my ability to do the simplest things. I believe the most absurd and dangerous lies that, a few hours later, when I’m fully rested and nourished, I know are false. At 4am under my broom tree there are no pigs to drive those demons into, unlike in the Gospel lesson. This isn’t every night, it’s not even most nights, in fact it is quite infrequent. But it lurks in the corner, never too far away, waiting for its moment. It’s my broom tree, and I wish God would cut it down and burn it.
God has a prescription for those of us who suffer under broom trees. I’m going to call it Tortoise Therapy, and I hope someone will write a book about it, and make me lots of money for inventing a new branch of psychology.
I’m naming it Tortoise Therapy after the desert tortoise, who lives in some of the harshest environments on the planet, notably the Mojave Desert, which reaches temperatures of 140 degrees. Now, these plucky little reptiles may not look like God’s tiny miracles, with their prehistoric faces and their snail-paced plod, but they are. And here’s why – they can survive for a year or more without water. And there are secrets to their success, which coincidentally, are the same that God whispered to Elijah when the prophet was burnt out under the broom tree.
First, the desert tortoise gets a lot of sleep. She hibernates. She goes to bed at the sensible hour of November and awakens ready to start the new day in March. Elijah doesn’t have the luxury, or the body chemistry to sleep for four months. A chance would be a fine thing. But did you notice in the reading, that he does lie down and fall asleep? Turns out Elijah’s broom tree and mine are refreshingly similar – when we’re tired, and especially in the evening and in the small hours of the morning, we lose perspective. The demons lie and we listen. Oh, how convincing they are – you can’t cope with this, you don’t have what it takes, that thing you need to do tomorrow – you’re going to fail, you’ll end up making things even worse. The fears chew on our brains and there are no pigs to send them into. And to Elijah, and to me, and to you, too, God says, “Do yourself a favor and look after yourself – get some sleep.”
The second secret of the desert tortoise’s success is that he can find nourishment in unlikely places. It does actually rain in the Mojave – every year or two, and from February to May the desert comes alive, giving birth to dandelions, primroses, and succulents. For a few weeks, it’s like Old Country Buffet for tortoises. Each tortoise stores the liquid from the plants he’s eaten in his body; and I mean all of the liquid. Nothing is passed. Eventually his bladder grows until it forms 30 percent of his body weight. And he just holds it in, so that all of it is reabsorbed by his body. Elijah is woken from his sleep when an angel taps him on the shoulder and says, “Get up and eat. The journey is too much for you.” There’s bread baking on a hot stone and cool water in a jar. And God says the same to you and me – the journey – the one we’re making through this life is too much for us. Eat and drink. Eat and drink – in a sacramental sense, receiving the nourishment of Christ’s body and blood regularly; but also drinking daily from the streams of living water that Jesus provides us in prayer, meditation, and Bible reading. “Let anyone who is thirsty come to me,” he says.
And the final secret to her success is that the desert tortoise can regulate her internal life in response to external conditions. So, when her body temperature, pH level, or water and salt concentrations become unbalanced, her body does something miraculous to restore the balance. Inner balance. Now, isn’t that a holy grail? To experience hostile environments and stay inwardly calm, mentally level. No drama, no panic, keeping perspective, thinking clearly, not reacting. If you can do this, then the earth is yours and everything in it. At this moment Elijah is despised. The royals, with all the armed forces at their disposal, are trying to kill him. All his prophet co-workers have been executed. He’s alone. In the desert. Talk about hostile environments – this makes the Mojave look like an oasis. But he regains his inner peace so much that he can hear the still small voice of God after the earthquake, after the wind and after the fire.
And God says, “Yes, Elijah, I know it’s harsh out there; I see what you’re going through; I literally feel your pain, but I’m with you and I have a job for you. Elijah, I am not going to answer your prayer – I will not take your life, because it has meaning and a purpose, and I have a grand task for you. I need you, and so do your people.”
If you’re sitting under the broom tree today. God gets it. But your life has meaning. You have a task. Climb out from under the broom tree, don’t listen to the demons that lie, listen to the Spirit of truth. After the roar of the crowd, the shaking of the stadium, the howl of the wind, and after the fire – hear the still small voice of calm. Get up. We have work to do.
- Memorial Train Garden Honors Bel Air Boy
- Spanish Broom – Spartium junceum
- Peffley: Take care in pruning Spanish Broom to avoid ‘brooms’
- Spartium junceum ( Spanish Broom )
- Plant Care
- Exotic Species: Scotch Broom
- Cytisus scoparius – Scotch Broom
- Primary Source References
- Further Sources
Memorial Train Garden Honors Bel Air Boy
Four years ago the holiday season was cast in sadness for one Bel Air family.
Out of tragedy grew a garden—a train garden.
Just days after Thanksgiving 2007, Christopher Cooper, 15, died suddenly as a result of medical issues he’d been dealing with his entire life.
“Chris had a tremendous love of trains,” said John Neuberger, Chris’ uncle.
The family knew they wanted to do something to honor Chris’ memory, and what started as trains in a garage developed into a large display to share with others.
“So just to honor his memory, Kim and Ray decided to build this garden,” Neuberger said of Chris’s parents.
In 2009, in Bel Air agreed to host the garden in a portable building on its property, and the trains have been there every year since.
Neuberger said his favorite thing about the train garden is seeing a child’s face light up after walking through the door.
“That’s the best part of it,” Neuberger said, smiling.
The large display features hometown elements such as , the , sports field and Main Street businesses. This year, Ocean City, MD, was added to the display because Chris loved spending time there.
In the Ocean City scene there is also a representation of a bench in Chris’ name. An actual bench dedicated to Chris’ memory stands on 17th Street in Ocean City, Neuberger said.
Families from the Bel Air area and further away visit the train garden, especially on weekends when Santa stops by.
Kelly Czajkowski of Aberdeen brought her 1-year-old son, Ryan, to the train garden Thursday for the second time this year.
“He loved it the first time so we had to come back, we will probably be here many more times,” Czajkowski said.
Christopher’s Train Garden is open 12 p.m. to 8 p.m. Tuesdays through Saturdays between Nov. 25 through Jan. 1.
Spanish Broom – Spartium junceum
Spanish Broom is the only variety in the genus Spartium. It originates in the Mediterranean region and also grows naturally in the Canary Islands.
The plant produces a profusion of bright yellow pea-like flowers from June until August. They resemble the flowers of Genista, Cytisus canariensis, and other brooms.
Each flower is borne on a short stalk along the tall flower clusters. Like the flowers, the green branching stems are characteristic of brooms.
The small leaves that appear on each shoot fall soon after they become fully developed, leaving only the green stems to take over the process of photosynthesis.
Spanish Broom looks particularly attractive when grown in a wooden tub or large clay pot. As well as being suitable for patios and balconies, it will also thrive in a conservatory or greenhouse. It can be used as a specimen plant, although it also likes the company of others.
Mature plants often become rather bare and woody at the base, but you can compensate for this by growing smaller foliage or flowering plants around them.
Through The Year
This is the time to repot your plant if you have not done so the previous year, potting on into an alkaline compost (a soil-based compost with added chalk). Plants grown indoors can be moved outside into a sunny position in May.
Feed the plant once a month with a standard liquid fertilizer. Water moderately but allow the compost to dry out before you water again. From June until August your plant should produce a profusion of flowers.
Stop feeding and cut down on water. Trim and prune the plant before the winter.
You can move your plant indoors for the winter although it is hardy and should survive severe frosts. Water sparingly.
Growing from seed
1 Sow seeds in March or April in a propagating tray, using a sandy-based compost.
2 When the seedlings are large enough to handle, prick them out and pot up singly in 10cm (4in) pots.
Take cuttings in spring. Dip in hormone rooting powder and insert in rooting compost.
Pests And Diseases
Spanish Broom is generally a healthy plant, and is seldom attacked by pests or diseases.
Poor growth is usually a sign of aphids, which may attack the young shoots of the plant.
Treatment: Spray the plant with soapy water. In severe attacks, use a mild insecticide.
The plant will shed its flowers if it is kept too dry or if the air is not sufficiently moist.
Prevention: Water moderately and mist spray indoor plants regularly in warm weather.
Spanish Broom is easy enough to care for if you follow the instructions carefully. Prune back leggy growth in the autumn to encourage early flowering but do not cut into the old wood, from which new growth will appear in the spring.
- Potting: Use an alkaline compost. Repot every second year.
- Water moderately in the summer and sparingly in the winter, allowing the compost to dry out a little between applications.
- Feeding: Feed once a month during the growing season with a standard liquid fertilizer.
BEST GROWTH ENVIRONMENT
- Light: Spanish Broom thrives in a bright position in full sun.
- Temperature: It will tolerate quite a wide range of temperatures in summer, from 15°-24°C (60°-75°F). In winter, keep indoor plants at about 4°C (40°F). Outdoor plants are frost-tolerant.
- Spanish Broom is generally available in the spring or autumn from garden centres and nurseries. If you are growing it outside in a tub, these are also the best seasons to plant it.
- Choose a well-shaped plant with healthy growth. Avoid any with damaged stems.
- Properly cared for, Spanish Broom will live for many years.
Spanish Broom bears a mass of fragrant bright yellow flowers in summer. In winter, when the leaves have dropped, its slender green stems remain attractive.
The Spanish broom, Spartium junceum, is invaluable in the garden because it continues to produce its bright yellow, sweetly scented flowers throughout the latter half of summer and even into the autumn when they are a splendid foil for purple buddleia and blue or red hydrangeas. Though deciduous, spartium has an evergreen look because of its light green, rush-like stems and though in good soil and sheltered places it may grow too tall for convenience it can be kept to 5 or 6 ft. by shortening each spring all or most of the previous year’s growth. In rather poor sandy soils or in windswept places near the sea, conditions for which it is well suited, it remains naturally compact. Unlike most brooms its flowers last well in water.
Peffley: Take care in pruning Spanish Broom to avoid ‘brooms’
If you are anywhere near the golden-yellow flowering shrub with bright green foliage that is now in bloom everywhere around Lubbock, you will be cocooned within a heavy, sweet, pungent fragrance of the ornamental Spanish (or Weaver’s) Broom – or is it the Scotch (Scot’s or Scottish) Broom?
To some folks these plants are almost interchangeable, but they are hardly the same.
While they are both members of the Fabaceae (pea) family and appear from a distance to be similar, upon closer inspection, they are quite different.
The specific epitaph of Spanish Broom is Spartium junceum, while Scotch broom is Cytisus scoparius. The Latin specific epithet junceum means “rush-like,” referring to the shoots. Spanish Broom is often confused with Scotch Broom, but they are is easily distinguished.
Spanish Broom has clusters of fragrant bright yellow flowers borne in clusters at the ends of rounded, bright green stems; stems are usually leafless but it does sparsely produce single lance-shaped leaves that are less than 1 inch in length. Scotch Broom flowers are similar but lack fragrance; its stems are squared, bearing small, trifoliate leaflets.
When Spanish Broom is left unchecked, it may outgrow its placement in the landscape.
There is a strategy to keep a Spanish Broom attractive. Shrubs are frequently pruned by shearing or partially cutting back stems. Such clipping results in “broom-like” subsequent regrowth, in that clusters of new branches are produced at the tip of stems near the pruning point.
The broom-like regrowth is thin and spindly at the point where it was cut. Over time, such spindly growth becomes unattractive and flowers will be produced only on the outer portions of the shrub.
To avoid “brooming,” prune by making rejuvenation cuts. A rejuvenation cut is made by removing old, large stems near or at ground level, while leaving smaller, newer branches. The thinning out of older wood encourages new growth to be produced from the base.
Younger branches are more floriferous than older stems, increasing flower production. Rejuvenation pruning also keeps the desired shape and size of the Spanish Broom.
Spanish Broom is native to the Mediterranean areas of Northern Africa, Western Asia and Southern Europe.
Spanish Broom was introduced into California as a garden ornamental in the 1850s and was planted along mountain highways and roadsides in Southern California in the1930s. Because Spanish Broom is well adapted to sandy, rocky, low nutrient soil, it is widely used in xeriscapes. Spanish Broom has naturalized in California, is considered invasive and is classified as a noxious weed in California and Washington State.
Some information from King County, Washington; California Invasive Plant Council, Berkeley, California.
ELLEN PEFFLEY taught horticulture at the college level for 28 years, 25 of those at Texas Tech, during which time she developed two onion varieties. She is now the sole proprietor of From the Garden, a market garden farmette. You can email her at [email protected]
Spartium junceum ( Spanish Broom )
Upright deciduous shrub with linear, dark green leaves that are hairy beneath. Fragrant, pea-like, yellow lfowers bloom continually from early summer to early fall. Dark brown seed pods follow blooms.
Important Info : Rabbits can be pests for young plants. Thrives in coastal areas and on alkaline soils.
Google Plant Images:
Size: Height: 0 ft. to 0 ft.
Width: 0 ft. to 0 ft.
Plant Category: shrubs,
Plant Characteristics: decorative berries or fruit,
Foliage Characteristics: deciduous,
Flower Characteristics: showy, unusual,
Flower Color: yellows,
Bloomtime Range: Early Summer to Early Fall
USDA Hardiness Zone: 8 to 10
AHS Heat Zone: Not defined for this plant
Light Range: Full Sun to Full Sun
pH Range: 7.5 to 8.5
Soil Range: Sandy Loam to Clay Loam
Water Range: Normal to Moist
How-to : Fertilization for Established Plants
Established plants can benefit from fertilization. Take a visual inventory of your landscape. Trees need to be fertilized every few years. Shrubs and other plants in the landscape can be fertilized yearly. A soil test can determine existing nutrient levels in the soil. If one or more nutrients is low, a specific instead of an all-purpose fertilizer may be required. Fertilizers that are high in N, nitrogen, will promote green leafy growth. Excess nitrogen in the soil can cause excessive vegetative growth on plants at the expense of flower bud development. It is best to avoid fertilizing late in the growing season. Applications made at that time can force lush, vegetative growth that will not have a chance to harden off before the onset of cold weather.
Conditions : Full Sun
Full Sun is defined as exposure to more than 6 hours of continuous, direct sun per day.
Conditions : Regular Moisture for Outdoor Plants
Water when normal rainfall does not provide the preferred 1 inch of moisture most plants prefer. Average water is needed during the growing season, but take care not to overwater. The first two years after a plant is installed, regular watering is important. The first year is critical. It is better to water once a week and water deeply, than to water frequently for a few minutes.
Conditions : Outdoor Watering
Plants are almost completely made up of water so it is important to supply them with adequate water to maintain good plant health. Not enough water and roots will wither and the plant will wilt and die. Too much water applied too frequently deprives roots of oxygen leading to plant diseases such as root and stem rots. The type of plant, plant age, light level, soil type and container size all will impact when a plant needs to be watered. Follow these tips to ensure successful watering:
* The key to watering is water deeply and less frequently. When watering, water well, i.e. provide enough water to thoroughly saturate the root ball. With in-ground plants, this means thoroughly soaking the soil until water has penetrated to a depth of 6 to 7 inches (1′ being better). With container grown plants, apply enough water to allow water to flow through the drainage holes.
* Try to water plants early in the day or later in the afternoon to conserve water and cut down on plant stress. Do water early enough so that water has had a chance to dry from plant leaves prior to night fall. This is paramount if you have had fungus problems.
* Don’t wait to water until plants wilt. Although some plants will recover from this, all plants will die if they wilt too much (when they reach the permanent wilting point).
* Consider water conservation methods such as drip irrigation, mulching, and xeriscaping. Drip systems which slowly drip moisture directly on the root system can be purchased at your local home and garden center. Mulches can significantly cool the root zone and conserve moisture.
* Consider adding water-saving gels to the root zone which will hold a reserve of water for the plant. These can make a world of difference especially under stressful conditions. Be certain to follow label directions for their use.
Conditions : Normal Watering for Outdoor Plants
Normal watering means that soil should be kept evenly moist and watered regularly, as conditions require. Most plants like 1 inch of water a week during the growing season, but take care not to over water. The first two years after a plant is installed, regular watering is important for establishment. The first year is critical. It is better to water once a week and water deeply, than to water frequently for a few minutes.
How-to : Pruning Flowering Shrubs
It is necessary to prune your deciduous flowering shrub for two reasons: 1. By removing old, damaged or dead wood, you increase air flow, yielding in less disease. 2. You rejuvenate new growth which increases flower production.
Pruning deciduous shrubs can be divided into 4 groups: Those that require minimal pruning (take out only dead, diseased, damaged, or crossed branches, can be done in early spring.); spring pruning (encourages vigorous, new growth which produces summer flowers – in other words, flowers appear on new wood); summer pruning after flower (after flowering, cut back shoots, and take out some of the old growth, down to the ground); suckering habit pruning (flowers appear on wood from previous year. Cut back flowered stems by 1/2, to strong growing new shoots and remove 1/2 of the flowered stems a couple of inches from the ground) Always remove dead, damaged or diseased wood first, no matter what type of pruning you are doing.
Examples: Minimal: Amelanchier, Aronia, Chimonanthus, Clethra, Cornus alternifolia, Daphne, Fothergilla, Hamamelis, Poncirus, Viburnum. Spring: Abelia, Buddleia, Datura, Fuchsia, Hibiscus, Hypericum, Perovskia, Spirea douglasii/japonica, Tamarix. Summer after flower: Buddleia alternifolia, Calycanthus, Chaenomeles, Corylus, Cotoneaster, Deutzia, Forsythia, Magnolia x soulangeana/stellata, Philadelphus, Rhododendron sp., Ribes, Spirea x arguta/prunifolia/thunbergii, Syringa, Weigela. Suckering: Kerria
How-to : Planting Shrubs
Dig a hole twice the size of the root ball and deep enough to plant at the same level the shrub was in the container. If soil is poor, dig hole even wider and fill with a mixture half original soil and half compost or soil amendment.
Carefully remove shrub from container and gently separate roots. Position in center of hole, best side facing forward. Fill in with original soil or an amended mixture if needed as described above. For larger shrubs, build a water well. Finish by mulching and watering well.
If the plant is balled-and-burlapped, remove fasteners and fold back the top of natural burlap, tucking it down into hole, after you’ve positioned shrub. Make sure that all burlap is buried so that it won’t wick water away from rootball during hot, dry periods. If synthetic burlap, remove if possible. If not possible, cut away or make slits to allow for roots to develop into the new soil. For larger shrubs, build a water well. Finish by mulching and watering well.
If shrub is bare-root, look for a discoloration somewhere near the base; this mark is likely where the soil line was. If soil is too sandy or too clayey, add organic matter. This will help with both drainage and water holding capacity. Fill soil, firming just enough to support shrub. Finish by mulching and watering well.
Exotic Species: Scotch Broom
Scotch broom is a shrub with bright yellow flowers and stiff, slender branches.
© Anne Tanne
- Perennial shrub.
- Strongly angled, green stems.
- Small leaves occur together in groups of three.
- Bright yellow flowers in leaf axils.
- Fruit is a brownish-black pod with hairs only along the seams.
Habitat and Ecology
Scotch broom (Cytisus scoparius) is found along the east and west coasts of North America and in Idaho, Montana, and Utah. Native to northern Africa and parts of Europe, it was first introduced to North America on the east coast and was later introduced to California as an ornamental. From the 1850s through the early 1900s, Scotch broom was frequently planted in gardens. Later, it was used for erosion control along highway cuts and fills.
Scotch broom flourishes in full sunlight in dry, sandy soils, but it can survive under a wide variety of soil conditions. However, it does not tend to survive in very arid or cold areas. Scotch broom invades dry hillsides, pastures, forest clearings, dry scrublands, dry riverbeds, and waterways. Several characteristics contribute to its success as an invasive plant: (1) although it loses its leaves during dry conditions, the photosynthetic tissue in its stems allows it to grow throughout the year; (2) its roots host nitrogen-fixing bacteria, which helps the plant to establish in nutrient-poor soils; and (3) it produces abundant seeds that remain viable in the soil for many years. In addition, Scotch broom is slightly toxic and unpalatable to livestock.
Cytisus scoparius – Scotch Broom
Scientific Name: Cytisus scoparius
Common Name: Scotch Broom
Thomas Jefferson incorporated both Scotch and Spanish broom (Genista hispanica) into his early landscape schemes at Monticello, including his design for the grove and for an enormous labyrinth on the north side of the mountain.1
The plant had a variety of uses. It was recommended for hedges in Virginia and for feeding pigs and sheep.2 It was also used for medicinal purposes, cloth and paper-making, and as a substitute for hops and coffee.3 However, its most well-known function was as a broom, hence its name.4
Today Scotch broom is found naturalized at Monticello and along the Virginia roadside. It is a hardy, spring-flowering shrub with bright yellow, pea-like flowers and thin, evergreen stems.
– Peggy Cornett, n.d.
Primary Source References
1807 May 13. (Jefferson to Edmund Bacon). “I wish him to gather me a peck or two of clean broom seed, when ripe.”5
1813 March 12. (Jefferson to John H. Cocke). “Th: Jefferson presents his compliments to mr Cocke, whose servant is desired to take as many Broom plants as he pleases, but having never found them to succeed by transplantation, he sends him some seed, which generally succeeds, altho sometimes it does not come up till the second spring.”6
- Thiébaut de Berneaud, Arsenne. Du Genêt, considéré Sous le rapport de ses différentes Espèces, de ses Propriétés et des Avantages qu’il offre à l’Agriculture et à l’Economie domestique. Paris: Chez D. Colas, 1810. See page 85.
- Thomas Jefferson Center for Historic Plants.