Monday, January 12, 2015


      Pompeii, Italy, spring of 2013

We encounter the electric yellow of the broom in numerous fauna and flora.

There is a very yellow fish called Electric Yellow Cichlid.


Yellow chrysanthemums can be just as bright yellow.

Canola fields present a similar eye catching yellow.

What is charming for me about this plant is that I always come across brooms in sunny Mediterranean environments. My very first encounter with it was in the 1960s when we used to see the shrubs along the narrow highway leading to the resort town of Kuşadası on the Aegean Sea.

The common name of the plant comes from the old word bróm meaning thorny shrub. Use of the branches of these plants for sweeping gave rise to the term broom for sweeping tools in the 15th century (

I am learning that brooms form a tribe. In the botanical classification of plants, the fifth rank is the family. The following ranks are genus (taxonomic group containing one or more species) and species. Sometimes plants belong to subfamilies, and tribe is a taxonomic group between genus and subfamily.

Brooms belong to the tribe called Genisteae, in the subfamily Faboideae of the family Fabaceae. All members of Genisteae are native to Europe, North Africa and Southwest Asia, with the greatest diversity along the Mediterranean. There are mainly three genera (plural of genus) of brooms: Chamaecytisus, Cytisus and Genista. Brooms in Cystisus and Genista genera flower mainly late spring to early summer.

Now, how to know which genus the brooms I’m familiar with belong to? We turn to Wikipedia for more enlightenment.

Dryer’s broom could be the species I’m looking for. The botanical name for it is Genista tinctoria. It is native to Europe and Turkey. It is a deciduous shrub growing to 60-90 cm tall. The pea like flowers are canary yellow and the fruit is a long, shiny pod similar to a green bean pod.

As the word tinctoria in its name would indicate this broom has been used from ancient times for producing a yellow dye.

It was from this plant that the isoflavone genistein was first isolated in 1899, hence the name of the chemical compound. The medicinal parts are the flowering twigs. Genistein and other isoflavones have been found to inhibit the uncontrolled cell growth of cancer.

The plant has also been used in popular medicine and herbalism for various complaints, including skin diseases.

I had no idea that this lovely plant is as useful as it is pretty.

There are so many different brooms that I will need to look into this plant further.



  1. Oh! Is that what broom is? It's so nice to see images for plants I always read about but don't realise that I'm familiar with...

  2. Hi Beste - I love broom ... we had a low gulley at the bottom of the garden, as it fell away from the tennis court .. and it had been filled with different coloured brooms and when they came out - I loved them .. and I've always had a broom, wherever I've had a garden ... now I don't have a garden.

    Cheers - and be back soon - Hilary