Broom (Cytisus scorparius)

Brom is old English for ‘coarse shrub’. Place names like Bromley, ‘broom clearing’, come from it. Local names for the plant include Golden chair, Banadle in Wales and Beesom, from its use for sweeping. The green tips of flowering branches contain sparteine, a powerful diuretic helpful for kidney ailments. An infusion of it was used to treat jaundice and relieve rheumatism. On the Isle of Man it was used to procure an abortion. In modern herbalism it is used to regulate the heartbeat, but it is best avoided by those with high blood pressure. Flowering in spring, it is symbolic of romance and amorousness, often to be seen decorating country weddings. At Whitsuntide, the orange-yellow flowers symbolised the fire, which descended on Jesus’s disciples and enabled them to speak in tongues. The buds were either picked or eaten raw in a salad, a popular 17th C. hors-d’oevre. They also flavoured beer before hops. The wood is used in fine furniture as veneer.