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Cytisus scoparius

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Cytisus scoparius
Common broom
Scientific classification Edit this classification
Kingdom: Plantae
Clade: Tracheophytes
Clade: Angiosperms
Clade: Eudicots
Clade: Rosids
Order: Fabales
Family: Fabaceae
Subfamily: Faboideae
Genus: Cytisus
C. scoparius
Binomial name
Cytisus scoparius
    • Sarothamnus bourgaei Boiss.
    • Sarothamnus oxyphyllus Boiss.
    • Sarothamnus scoparius (L.) W.D.J.Koch
    • Sarothamnus vulgaris Wimm.
    • Spartium scoparium L.

Cytisus scoparius (syn. Sarothamnus scoparius), the common broom or Scotch broom, is a deciduous leguminous shrub native to western and central Europe.[2] In Britain and Ireland, the standard name is broom;[3][4][5] this name is also used for other members of the Genisteae tribe, such as French broom or Spanish broom; and the term common broom is sometimes used for clarification.[6][7] In other English-speaking countries, the most common name is "Scotch broom" (or Scots broom);[8] however, it is known as English broom in Australia.[9]


Illustration of C. scoparius from Köhler's Medicinal Plants (1887)

Plants of C. scoparius typically grow to 1–3 metres (3+12–10 feet) tall, rarely to 4 m (13 ft), with main stems up to 5 centimetres (2 inches) thick, rarely 10 cm (4 in). Stems are ridged and green.[10] The shrubs have green shoots with small deciduous trifoliate leaves 5–15 millimetres (1458 in) long, and in spring and summer are covered in profuse golden yellow flowers 20–30 mm (341+18 in) from top to bottom and 15–20 mm wide. Flowering occurs after 50–80 growing degree-days. The seed pods have long hairs only along their seams.[10] In late summer, its legumes (seed pods) mature black, 2–3 cm (341+14 in) long, 8 mm (38 in) broad and 2–3 mm thick; they burst open, often with an audible crack, forcibly throwing seed from the parent plant. This species is adapted to Mediterranean and coastal climates, and its range is limited by cold winter temperatures. It also adapts to windy oceanic climates. The seeds, seedlings, and young shoots are sensitive to frost; adult plants are hardier, and branches affected by freezing temperatures regenerate quickly.[3][5][11] C. scoparius contains toxic alkaloids that depress the heart and nervous system.[12]

A legume, this shrub can fix nitrogen in the soil through a symbiotic relationship with Rhizobium bacteria.


One of the main alkaloids of this plant is cytisine. 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 herbivores (with the exception of the resistant aphid species Aphis cytisorum).[13][14]


The two subspecies of Cytisus scoparius are:[2][3]

  • Cytisus scoparius subsp. scoparius - throughout the species' range.
  • Cytisus scoparius subsp. maritimus (Rouy) Heywood - Western European maritime cliffs and associated environments; differs with prostrate growth; not over 0.4 m tall; downy young shoots.

Distribution and habitat[edit]

Cytisus scoparius is native to western and central Europe,[2] being common in Great Britain and Republic of Ireland.[15][16] It is found in sunny sites, usually on dry, sandy soils at low altitudes, tolerating very acidic soil conditions.[3]

Outside of its native range, it is an ecologically destructive colonizing invasive species in grassland, shrub and woodland, and other habitats.[17][18]


As an invasive species[edit]

Broom is an invasive species in North America.

Cytisus scoparius has been introduced into several other countries and continents, outside of its native range, and is commonly classified as a noxious invasive species in western North America, mainly in British Columbia (including on Vancouver Island), California, Oregon, Washington (west of the Cascades), the Sierra Nevada range,[19] fragmented areas of North America's eastern seaboard,[17] as well as Australia (where it is a declared weed),[20][21] New Zealand,[22] and in India.[23] These shrubs are sometimes utilized for civic and public landscaping projects in the American west due to their hardiness, and will seasonally reseed themselves, growing in disturbed areas, and along utility and transportation rights-of-way. The prolific growth of the plants after timber harvest or wildfire events clearly inhibits reforestation efforts, the sprouts competing with native plant seedlings and trees.[24] It is estimated that broom is responsible for US$47 million in lost timber production each year in Oregon state.[25] In New Zealand, broom is estimated to cost the forestry industry NZ$90 million, and to cost farmers an additional NZ$10 million in losses.[26]

Biological control for broom has been investigated since the mid-1980s, with a number of insect species being tested. Some of the tested invertebrates include the broom twig miner (Leucoptera spartifoliella), broom seed beetles (Bruchidius villosus), broom gall mites (Aceria genistae), sap-sucking broom psyllids (Arytainilla spartiophila), the Scotch broom seed weevil (Exapion fuscirostre) and recently, the broom leaf beetle (Gonioctena olivacea) and broom shoot moths (Agonopterix assimilella).[27][28]


The method used to remove broom is dependent on its prolific seed cycle. Care should be taken to avoid disturbing (aerating, loosening, etc.) the adjacent ground, the sprouting and seedling plants between late spring and mid-fall; late fall through winter (possibly to mid-spring) are preferred times to eradicate mature plants.[29] There are several methods, cutting, pulling, burning, herbicide or introducing chickens and goats.[30] Drought areas respond well to cutting while the seed pods are young and still green. In cooler, wetter areas pulling is the preferred method, and hand-operated broom pullers are available.[31] Low temperature fires, such as a grass fire, will increase seed germination and new sprouts may form on the burned stumps of mature broom. A spring fire followed by drought conditions will reduce seedling survival.[32] Often new plants will grow from roots or seed, requiring repeated treatments.


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.[11]


Broom contains scoparin, which is a diuretic. The plant also is used as a cathartic and as a cardiac stimulant, which is credited to the presence of sparteine.[33] A decoction or infusion of broom can be used to treat dropsy due to its diuretic action.[34] An ointment can be made from the flowers to treat gout.[35] Oxysparteine, produced from the action of acid on the sparteine, is useful as a cardiac stimulant and has the advantage over digoxin that it does not accumulate in the body.[33]


In Welsh mythology, Blodeuwedd is the name of a woman made from the flowers of broom, meadowsweet (Filipendula ulmaria) and the oak by Math fab Mathonwy and Gwydion to be the wife of Lleu Llaw Gyffes. Her story is part of the Fourth Branch of the Mabinogi, the tale of Math son of Mathonwy.[35]

Broom was considered a sign of plenty when it bore many flowers.[36] However a traditional rhyme from Sussex warns: "Sweep the house with blossomed broom in May/sweep the head of the household away."[35] Broom was also used in a decorated bundle of broom at weddings in place of rosemary when that was scarce,[36] and its strong smell was said to be able to tame wild horses and dogs.[37]

In Italy, the shrub was burnt with the intent of stopping witches.[35]

Royal symbols[edit]

The name of the House of Plantagenet, rulers of England in the Middle Ages, may have been derived from common broom, which was then known as planta genista in Latin.[38]: 9 [39]: 1  The plant was used as a heraldic badge by Geoffrey V of Anjou and five Plantagenet kings of England as a royal emblem.[40] The broomscod, or seed-pod, was the personal emblem of Charles VI of France.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "The Plant List: A Working List of All Plant Species". Theplantlist.org. Retrieved April 3, 2014.
  2. ^ a b c "Flora Europaea Search Results". Rbg-web2.rbge.org.uk. Retrieved 15 August 2018.
  3. ^ a b c d M. Blamey; C. Grey-Wilson (1989). Flora of Britain and Northern Europe. Hodder & Stoughton. ISBN 0-340-40170-2.
  4. ^ "Botanical Society of Britain and Ireland (zip file)". Bsbi.org.uk. Archived from the original on 3 February 2007. Retrieved 15 August 2018.
  5. ^ a b H. Vedel; J. Lange (1960). Trees and Bushes. London: Metheun.
  6. ^ "Wild Flowers of the Loch Lomond and Trossachs National Park, Scotland". Lenymede.demon.co.uk. Archived from the original on 14 October 2006. Retrieved 15 August 2018.
  7. ^ "GardenWorld". Archived from the original on 2006-10-06. Retrieved 2006-12-17.
  8. ^ "What is Scotch Broom?". Archived from the original on 2006-12-05. Retrieved 2006-11-20.
  9. ^ "English broom". Agriculture.vic.gov.au. Archived from the original on 16 August 2018. Retrieved 15 August 2018.
  10. ^ a b "Exotic Species: Scotch Broom (U.S. National Park Service)". www.nps.gov. Retrieved 2021-04-02.
  11. ^ a b W. J. Bean (1970). Trees and Shrubs Hardy in the British Isles. London: John Murray. ISBN 0-7195-1790-7.
  12. ^ Jim Pojar; A. MacKinnon; Paul B. Alaback (1994). Plants of the Pacific Northwest Coast: Washington, Oregon, British Columbia & Alaska. Redmond, WA: Lone Pine.
  13. ^ Isamu Murakoshi; Yoshiaki Yamashita; Shigeru Ohmiya; Hirotaka Otomasu (1986). "(−)-3β-13α-dihydroxylupanine from Cytisus scoparius". Phytochemistry. 25 (2): 521–524. doi:10.1016/S0031-9422(00)85514-4.
  14. ^ 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 (11–12): 1081–1086. doi:10.1515/znc-1982-11-1206. S2CID 6640269.
  15. ^ Clapham, A.R., Tutin, T.G. and Warburg, E.F. 1968. Excursion Flora of the British Isles. Cambridge Press. ISBN 0-521-04656-4
  16. ^ Parnell, J. and Curtis, T. 2012. Webb's An Irish Flora. Cork University Press. ISBN 978-185918-4783
  17. ^ a b "Species Profile – Scotch Broom (Cytisus scoparius (L.))". National Invasive Species Information Center, United States National Agricultural Library. Archived from the original on July 26, 2013. Retrieved October 9, 2013.
  18. ^ Ashfaq Ahmed Zarri; Asad R. Rahmani; Mark J. Behan (2006). "Habitat modifications by Scotch broom Cytisus scoparius invasion of grasslands of the Upper Nilgiris in India". Journal of the Bombay Natural History Society. 103 (2–3): 356–365.
  19. ^ "Cytisus scoparius, C. striatus". www.feis-crs.org. Retrieved 18 August 2019.
  20. ^ "Broom". Dpipwe.tas.gov.au. Retrieved 15 August 2018.
  21. ^ Andrew W. Sheppard; Peter Hodge; Quentin Paynter; Mark Rees (2002). "Factors affecting invasion and persistence of broom Cytisus scoparius in Australia". Journal of Applied Ecology. 39 (5): 721–734. doi:10.1046/j.1365-2664.2002.00750.x. JSTOR 827200.
  22. ^ "Broom – outside Howard – St Arnaud". Pest Management. Nelson City Council. Retrieved 8 February 2012.
  23. ^ K. J. B. Potter; D. J. Kriticos; M. S. Wait; A. Leriche (2009). "The current and future potential distribution of Cytisus scoparius: a weed of pastoral systems, natural ecosystems and plantation forestry". Weed Research. 49 (3): 271–282. doi:10.1111/j.1365-3180.2009.00697.x.
  24. ^ "Invasive Plant Species Management Plan: Appendix 7" (PDF). McDonald-Dunn Forest Plan. Oregon State University, College of Forestry. p. 10. Archived from the original (PDF) on 2014-05-04. Retrieved 2006-12-20.
  25. ^ "Scotch broom". ODA Plant Division, Noxious Weed Control. Retrieved 2006-09-03.
  26. ^ Press release (2008-02-12). "New bio-controls for pest plant". Landcare Research. Archived from the original on 2008-03-06. Retrieved 2008-03-02.
  27. ^ "What's New In Biological Control of Weeds?" (PDF). Landcare Research. November 2006. Archived from the original (PDF) on 2007-12-11. Retrieved 2008-03-02.
  28. ^ "CSIRO: Biological control". Landcareresearch.co.nz. Archived from the original on 29 February 2008. Retrieved 15 August 2018.
  29. ^ "Best Practices for Invasive Species Management in Garry Oak and Associated Ecosystems : Scotch Broom (Cytisus scoparius)" (PDF). Goert.ca. Archived from the original (PDF) on 22 July 2018. Retrieved 15 August 2018.
  30. ^ "Scotch Broom : Cytisus scoparius : Tips" (PDF). Bcinvasives.ca. Archived from the original (PDF) on 27 May 2015. Retrieved 15 August 2018.
  31. ^ "Broombusters". Archived from the original on 2015-05-27. Retrieved 2015-05-27.
  32. ^ "Cytisus scoparius, C. striatus". Fs.fed.us. Retrieved 15 August 2018.
  33. ^ a b A Modern Herbal, Grieve, Maude, ISBN 9780486227986, p. 127
  34. ^ A Modern Herbal, Grieve, Maude, ISBN 9780486227986, pp 126-127
  35. ^ a b c d D.C. Watts Dictionary of Plant Lore, p. 47, at Google Books
  36. ^ a b A Modern Herbal, Grieve, Maude, ISBN 9780486227986, p. 126
  37. ^ Roberto Dainotto The Mafia: A Cultural History, p. 106, at Google Books
  38. ^ Costain, Thomas B (1962). The Conquering Family. New York: Popular Library.
  39. ^ Jones, Dan (2013). The Plantagenets: The Warrior Kings and Queens Who Made England. Viking. ISBN 9780670026654.
  40. ^ J. Bernard Burke The Heraldic Register, p. 65, at Google Books

Further reading[edit]

  • "Scotch Broom". Ingrid Parker's Lab • Ecology and Evolutionary Biology • UC Santa Cruz. Joint Base Lewis-McChord.

External links[edit]