Scotch Broom. Cytisus scoparius syn Genista scoparius; aka Banal, Basam, Bealadh (Gael), Bisom, Bizzom, Breeam, Broom, Broom Flowers, Broom Tops, Browne, Brum, Common Broom, Green Broom, Irish Tops, Link, Retama (Sp). Found in early herbals under the name Planta genista.
Native to Europe, this deciduous shrub grows from 3 to 10 feet with a multitude of slender, leggy, angular branches. Flower is peaflower-shaped, leaves are sparse, hairy when young. The fresh plant has a strong, peculiar odor which disappears when dried. Is known as a dry-soil plant which thrives on poor, slightly acid soils. Flowers are yellow; appear between April and June.
As the name implies, these plants were once cut at the base and tied to the end of a stick to create a crude broom, although it was considered unlucky to use the plant for a broom when in full bloom. At one time it was grown as a shelter for game and as wind-break for newly planted shrubs until they were properly hardened.
Broom was also used as an heraldic device: its former name of Planta genista was taken by the Plantagenets as their family name. Broom has also been used in religious rites, such as temple purification. At weddings and handfastenings the plant was tied up in bright ribbons as a symbolic representation of the union; also as the bunch over which the handfasting couple jump during the ceremony.