The Broom, or Link (Cytisus scoparius) is a leguminous shrub

which is well known as growing abundantly on open places in our

rural districts. The prefix cytisus is derived from the name of a

Greek island where Broom abounded. It formerly bore the name of

Planta Genista, and gave rise to the historic title, Plantagenet.

A sprig of its golden blossom was borne by Geoffrey of Anjou in

his bonnet when going into battle, ma
ing him conspicuous

throughout the strife. In the Ingoldsby Legends it is said of our

second King Henry's headdress:--

With a great sprig of broom, which he bore as a badge in it,

He was named from this circumstance, Henry Plantagenet.

The stalks of the Broom, and especially the topmost young twigs,

are purgative, and act powerfully on the kidneys to increase the

flow of urine. They contain chemically an acid principle,

scoparin, and an alkaloid, sparteine. For medical purposes

these terminal twigs are used (whether fresh or dried) to make a

decoction which is of great use in dropsy from a weak heart, but it

should not be given where congestion of the lungs is present. From

half to one ounce by weight of the tops should be boiled down in a

pint of water to half this quantity, and a wineglassful may be taken

as a dose every four or six hours. For more chronic dropsy,

a compound decoction of broom may be given with much [63]

benefit. To make this, use broom-tops and dandelion roots, of each

half an ounce, boiling them in a pint of water down to half a pint,

and towards the last adding half an ounce of bruised juniper

berries. When cold, the decoction should be strained and a

wineglassful may be had three or four times a day. Henry the

Eighth, a prince of famous memory, was wonte to drinke the

distilled water of broome flowers against surfeits and diseases

therefrom arising. The flower-buds, pickled in vinegar, are

sometimes used as capers; and the roasted seeds have been

substituted for coffee. Sheep become stupefied or excited when by

chance constrained to eat broom-tops.

The generic name, Scoparius, is derived from the Latin word

scopa, a besom, this signifying a shrub to sweep with. It has

been long represented that witches delight to ride thereon: and in

Holland, if a vessel lying in dock has a besom tied to the top of its

mast, this advertises it as in search of a new owner. Hence has

arisen the saying about a woman when seeking a second husband,

Zij steetk't dem bezen, She hangs out the broom.

There is a tradition in Suffolk and Sussex:--

If you sweep the house with Broom in May,

You'll sweep the head of the house away.

Allied to the Broom, and likewise belonging to the Papilionaceous

order of leguminous plants, though not affording any known

medicinal principle, the Yellow Gorse (Ulex) or Furze grows

commonly throughout England on dry exposed plains. It covers

these during the flowering season with a gorgeous sheet of yellow

blossoms, orange perfumed, and which entirely conceals the

rugged brown unsightly branches beneath. Its elastic seed vessels

burst with a crackling noise in hot [64] weather, and scatter the

seeds on all sides. Some, says Parkinson, have used the flowers

against the jaundice, but probably only because of their yellow

colour. The seeds, adds Gerard, are employed in medicines

against the stone, and the staying of the laske (laxitas,

looseness). They are certainly astringent, and contain tannin. In

Devonshire the bush is called Vuzz, and in Sussex Hawth.

The Gorse is rare in Scotland, thriving best in our cool humid

climate. In England it is really never out of blossom, not even after

a severe frost, giving rise to the well-known saying Love is never

out of season except when the Furze is out of bloom. It is also

known as Fursbush, Furrs and Whins, being crushed and given as

fodder to cattle. The tender shoots are protected from being eaten

by herbivorous animals in the same way as are the thistles and the

holly, by the angles of the leaves having grown together so as to

constitute prickles.

'Twere to cut off an epigram's point,

Or disfurnish a knight of his spurs,

If we foolishly tried to disjoint

Its arms from the lance-bearing Furze.

Linnoeus knelt before it on the sod: and for its beauty thanked his


The Butcher's Broom, Ruscus (or Bruscus) aculeatus, or prickly,

is a plant of the Lily order, which grows chiefly in the South of

England, on heathy places and in woods. It bears sharp-pointed,

stiff leaves (each of which produces a small solitary flower on its

upper surface), and scarlet berries. The shrub is also known as

Knee Hulyer, Knee Holly (confused with the Latin cneorum),

Prickly Pettigrue and Jews' Myrtle. Butchers make besoms of its

twigs, with which to sweep their stalls or [65] blocks: and these

twigs are called pungi topi, prickrats, from being used to

preserve meat from rats. Jews buy the same for service during the

Feast of Tabernacles; and the boughs have been employed for

flogging chilblains. The Butcher's Broom has been claimed by the

Earls of Sutherland as the distinguishing badge of their followers

and Clan, every Sutherland volunteer wearing a sprig of the bush

in his bonnet on field days. This shrub is highly extolled as a free

promoter of urine in dropsy and obstructions of the kidneys; a pint

of boiling water should be poured on an ounce of the fresh twigs,

or on half-an-ounce of the bruised root, to make an infusion,

which may be taken as tea. The root is at first sweet to the taste,

and afterwards bitter.