Thursday, May 29, 2008

Common Broom/ Gyvel

Cytisus scoparius, syn. Sarothamnus scoparius

All brooms (shrubs) and their relatives are natives of Europe, North Africa and southwest Asia. It is a group of evergreen, semi-evergreen and deciduous shrubs. Most of the species have yellow flowers, a few have white, orange, red, pink or purple flowers.
The most widely familiar is common broom (gyvel) which is a native of north western Europe where it is found on sunny sites, usually on dry sandy soils at low altitudes. It grows fast and is very hardy. It makes plant-societies together with fx common hair-grass (bølget bunke), heather (lyng) and bearberry (melbærris), but else it is almost impossible for other plants to grow where the broom has spread, it changes the soil-conditions and outdoes the natural light-loving vegetation and suppresses the re-planted forest. In some places it has been cleared with machines and afterwards kept down by grassing.

It is difficult to think of these disadvantages when those butter-yellow flowers bloom so beautiful vigorously in the countryside in May. Broom is also widely cultivated as an ornamental plant in the garden with several cultivars selected for variation in flower colour.
In the old days the common broom was used both culinary and medicinal. The flower buds and flowers of Cytisus scoparius have been used as a salad ingredience raw or pickled and were a popular ingredience for salma grundi and 'grand sallet' during the 17th and 19th century. It was also used as a spice and a coffee substitute. Today people are more careful, since broom can be poisonous.
In medicine ashes of broom were used to treat dropsy, and among other things it was used as a cardiac stimulant and was said to be able to neutralise adder poisoning. As for veterinary use it made sheep immune to snake bite. (according to Liber Herbarium)

Dyers broom (Genista tinctora) provides a useful yellow dye and was grown commercially for this purpose in parts of Britain into the early 19th century.
In folklore and myth broom was known have magic power. It could handle witchcraft and was said to prevent fire and lightning and to protect against evil eyes and demons. In Welsh Mythology Bloodeuwedd is the name of a woman made from the flowers of broom, meadowsweet and the oak. Her story is part of The Fourth Branch of the Mabigoni.

It was common to include a decorated bundle of broom at weddings , and in Sussex a traditional rhyme says:
Sweep the house with blossed broom in May
Sweep the head of the household away.

The surname of the House of Plantagenet rulers of England in the Middle Ages was derived from common broom, which was known as 'planta genista' in Latin. It was originally the emblem of Geoffrey of Anjou , father of Henry II of England.

photo 250508: grethe bachmann, Strands, Helgenæs