Common Name Scotch broom
Moisture dry to mesic
Broom is native to many parts of Europe, and as a pioneer Nitrogen fixing shrub has it's place in hedge & agroforestry systems. It has marginal edible & medicinal uses too, although today has become uncommon as the composition of active ingredients changes throughout the year making it unreliable.
The flower buds of broom can be pickled and used as a substitute for capers. They can also be added to salad. Some caution is advised, as the plant has low levels of toxicity, however small amounts are likely to have no adverse effects. The tender green tops of the plant have been used like hops to give a bitter flavour to beer and to render it more intoxicating. The roasted seed is a coffee substitute.
Broom is a bitter narcotic herb that depresses the respiration and regulates heart action. It acts upon the electrical conductivity of the heart, slowing and regulating the transmission of the impulses. The young herbaceous tips of flowering shoots are cardiotonic, cathartic, diuretic, emetic and vasoconstrictor. The seeds can also be used. The plant is used internally in the treatment of heart complaints, and is especially used in conjunction with Convallaria majalis. The plant is also strongly diuretic, stimulating urine production and thus countering fluid retention. Since broom causes the muscles of the uterus to contract, it has been used to prevent blood loss after childbirth. Use this herb with caution since large doses are likely to upset the stomach.
An excellent fibre is obtained from the bark, it is used in the manufacture of paper, cloth and nets. It is not as strong as the fibre from the Spanish broom (Spartium junceum). The branches are harvested in late summer or autumn, the leaves removed and the stems steamed until the fibres can be stripped. The fibres are cooked for 3 hours in lye then put in a ball mill for 3 hours. The paper is pale tan in colour. The bark is also a good source of tannin. A yellow and a brown dye are obtained from the bark. A yellow dye is obtained from the flowering stem. A green dye is obtained from the leaves and young tops.
The branches are used to make baskets, brushes & brooms. They are also sometimes used for thatching roofs and as substitutes for reeds in making fences or screens. An essential oil from the flowers is used in perfumery. Growing well on dry banks and on steep slopes, it is an effective sand binder and soil stabiliser. Broom is one of the first plant to colonize sand dunes by the coast. The plant attracts insects away from nearby plants.