Cytisus scoparius, the common broom or Scotch broom, syn. Sarothamnus scoparius, is a perennial leguminous shrub native to western and central Europe. In Britain and Ireland, the standard name is broom, but this name is also used generically for other related species (see broom), and the term common broom is sometimes used for clarification. In other English-speaking countries, the most prevalent common name is Scotch broom (or Scot's broom); English broom is also occasionally used.
- Cytisus scoparius subsp. scoparius. Throughout the species' range.
- Cytisus scoparius subsp. maritimus (Rouy) Heywood. Western Europe, on maritime cliffs. Differs in prostrate growth, not over 0.4 m tall, and downy young shoots.
Plants of Cytisus scoparius typically grow to 1–3 m (3–9 ft) tall, rarely to 4 m (13 ft), with main stems up to 5 cm (2 in)thick, rarely 10 cm (4 in). The shrubs have green shoots with small deciduous trifoliate leaves 5–15 mm long, and in spring and summer is covered in profuse golden yellow flowers 20–30 mm from top to bottom and 15–20 mm wide. Flowering occurs after 50-80 growing degree days. In late summer, its legumes (seed pods) mature black, 2–3 cm long, 8 mm broad and 2–3 mm thick; they burst open, often with an audible crack, forcibly throwing seed from the parent plant. This is the hardiest species of broom, tolerating temperatures down to about −25 °C (−13 °F).[clarification needed] C. scoparius contains toxic alkaloids that depress the heart and nervous system.
Distribution and habitat
Cytisus scoparius is found in sunny sites, usually on dry, sandy soils at low altitudes. In some places outside of its native range, such as India, South America and western North America, it has become an ecologically destructive colonizing invasive species in grassland, shrub and woodland, and other habitats.
Cytisus scoparius is widely cultivated as an ornamental plant, with several cultivars selected for variation in flower colour, including "Moonlight" with deep yellow flowers, "Andreanus" and "Firefly" with dark orange-red flowers, and growth habit, including "Pendula" with pendulous branchlets.
C. scoparius has been introduced into several other continents outside its native range and is classified as a noxious invasive species in California and the Pacific Northwest in North America, and in Australia, New Zealand and India. These shrubs commonly grow in disturbed areas and along utility and transportation rights-of-way. The prolific growth of this species after timber harvest inhibits reforestation by competing with seedling trees. It is estimated that it is responsible for US$47 million in lost timber production each year in Oregon. In New Zealand, broom is estimated to cost the forestry industry NZ$90 million, and to cost farmers NZ$10 million.
Biological control for broom has been investigated since the mid-1980s with a number of species being trialled. They include the broom twig miner (Leucoptera spartifoliella), the broom seed beetle (Bruchidius villosus), the broom gall mite (Aceria genistae), the sap-sucking broom psyllid (Arytainilla spartiophila) and recently the broom leaf beetle (Gonioctena olivacea) and the broom shoot moth (Agonopterix assimilella).
The characteristic constituents are biogenic amines (mostly tyramine in the young shoots), flavonoids (spiraeoside and scoparoside), isoflavones and their glycosides (genistin), as well as allelopathic quinolizidine alkaloids (mostly sparteine, lupanine, scoparin and hydroxy-derivatives), which defend the plant against insect infestation and herbivory (with the exception of the resistant Aphis cytisorum).
The name of the House of Plantagenet, rulers of England in the Middle Ages, was derived from common broom, which was then known as "planta genista" in Latin. The plant was used as a heraldic badge by Geoffrey of Anjou and five other Plantagenet kings of England as a royal emblem. The "broomscod", or seed-pod, was the personal emblem of Charles VI of France.
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- Michael Wink, Thomas Hartmann, Ludger Witte & Joachim Rheinheimer (1982). "Interrelationship between quinolizidine alkaloid producing legumes and infesting insects: exploitation of the alkaloid-containing phloem sap of Cytisus scoparius by the broom aphid Aphis cytisorum" (PDF). Zeitschrift für Naturforschung 37: 1081–1086.
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