Garden News

Butcher's Broom - 4 April 2017

P1040901Butcher's Broom (Ruscus aculeatus) is a rather strange native plant which you can find growing along the River Walk. It is an evergreen low-growing, stiff, spiky shrub whose stems used to be used for cleaning butcher's blocks. The "leaves" with their sharp points are in fact not leaves at all, but modified stems known as cladodes. At this time of year, if you look closely at them, you can see a tiny greenish flower emerging from the underside of each "leaf". The plants bear male and female flowers  on separate bushes, although nowadays you can get hermaphrodites, with both sexes on the same plant.

The female flower (right) lfemale flower enlargedooks like a tiny white star with a purple centre, and this later develops into quite a large red berry, hence the alternative common name of knee holly. It will grow in deep shade and on poor soil so can be quite useful in difficult spots in a garden. As well as being bird-distributed, it spreads by rhizomes so in time it can make quite a good clump.

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