categoryZShrubs Shrubs List 
categoryZBroadleaf Broadleaf List 
categoryZDeciduous Deciduous List 

SPANISH BROOM

Spartium junceum

Pea Family [Fabaceae]

month8jun month8june month8jul month8july month8aug

category
category8Shrubs
category
category8Broadleaf
category
category8Deciduous
status
statusZneophyte
flower
flower8yellow
morph
morph8zygo
petals
petalsZ5
type
typeZspiked
stem
stem8round
toxicity
toxicityZmedium

8th July 2017, park garden, Waterloo, Sefton Coast Photo: © RWD
Grows by erect stems to 3m high. Likes a sandy soil by roadsides or rough ground. scattered mostly around London, but elsewhere occurs in a few isolated hectads mainly on the west half of England.


8th July 2017, park garden, Waterloo, Sefton Coast Photo: © RWD
The stems are thin, rigid, mainly straight with just a gentle overall curve on them and sparsely branched. The flowering spike, a raceme, occupies the top.


8th July 2017, park garden, Waterloo, Sefton Coast Photo: © RWD
The flower spike might have about 20(?) potential flowers, here in bud stage.


8th July 2017, park garden, Waterloo, Sefton Coast Photo: © RWD
The stems are mostly featureless, with very faint ridges and tiny white pin-pricks (possibly very short hairs). Flowers on a short stalk encased in fused sepal which has no gaps between it and the flower it holds; the flowers nearer the bottom escaping first.


8th July 2017, park garden, Waterloo, Sefton Coast Photo: © RWD
Flowers large, mainly a deep yellow (deeper yellow than Broom); typically fabaceae shaped with a large banner, two wings and a keel.


8th July 2017, park garden, Waterloo, Sefton Coast Photo: © RWD
Flowers 1-2cm across.


8th July 2017, park garden, Waterloo, Sefton Coast Photo: © RWD


8th July 2017, park garden, Waterloo, Sefton Coast Photo: © RWD


8th July 2017, park garden, Waterloo, Sefton Coast Photo: © RWD


8th July 2017, park garden, Waterloo, Sefton Coast Photo: © RWD
But whereas the keel on many other Fabaceae plants usually comprises two clasping halves and are mostly hidden between the two wings, those on Spanish Broom are canoe-shaped (fused at the bottom but open at the top) and extend way-beyong the two wings held apart either side.


8th July 2017, park garden, Waterloo, Sefton Coast Photo: © RWD
The canoe-shaped keel protrudes beyond the two wings.


8th July 2017, park garden, Waterloo, Sefton Coast Photo: © RWD
The single pale-green style and 10(?) concolorous yellow filaments both curl up from the open canoe-shaped keel.


8th July 2017, park garden, Waterloo, Sefton Coast Photo: © RWD
On this specimen the keel is splitting at the bottom, no longer joined, which will, of course, sink the canoe :-)


8th July 2017, park garden, Waterloo, Sefton Coast Photo: © RWD
Eventually the petals wither off and the ovary grows into a long, thin straight-edged pod. All pods are directed upwards on stiff stalks, rather than hang down as they do on many other fabaceae plants. the pods eventually grow to 8-10cm long and blacken when ripe, bursting open with a crack to scatter the seeds.


8th July 2017, park garden, Waterloo, Sefton Coast Photo: © RWD
The developing peas/seeds can be discerned in the top half of the pod. There might eventually be 18-22 (?) in each pod. Some pods have already fallen off (the pale-brown stumps on the stem).


8th July 2017, park garden, Waterloo, Sefton Coast Photo: © RWD
Seed pods hairier at the top.


8th July 2017, park garden, Waterloo, Sefton Coast Photo: © RWD
Long white hairs at top of pods. Curved long style still attached.


8th July 2017, park garden, Waterloo, Sefton Coast Photo: © RWD
The stems are sometimes well-branched, coming off the main stem at an angle of about 60°. All are rigid and straight forming a very architectural space. They are glaucous green with tiny white hairs, which might rub off those parts higher up the plant when buffeted by high winds.


8th July 2017, park garden, Waterloo, Sefton Coast Photo: © RWD
The only leaves on the plant are always much nearer the ground; never trefoil as are many other fabaceae. Most of the photosynthesis occurs within the stiff stems of the plant, with the leaves contributing little. The few leaves on it eventually fall off in late spring which explains why your Author could only find one or two leaves on the larger plants. The stems of Scotch Broom have a wide pith within (unfortunately your Author did not know this when he was taking all these photos). With photosynthesis occurring mostly in the stems the plant is able to conserve water in hot climates, which probably also explains the pith within the stems to hold the water.


8th July 2017, park garden, Waterloo, Sefton Coast Photo: © RWD
The leaves are short (1-3cm), narrow (4mm), linear or oblanceolate. Sometimes in opposite pairs, mainly by chance rather than design.


Some similarities to : Broom (Cytisus scoparius) but that belongs in a differing genus (still within the same Fabaceae family). Broom has slightly paler-yellow flowers, trefoil leaves, and stems (which although as straight as Scotch Broom) have 5 deep grooves a bit like those of Bilberry (Vaccinium myrtillus) but are not as deep.

Not to be semantically confused with : Spanish-needles Bidens bipinnata, Spanish Box Buxus balearica, Spanish Valerian Centranthus macrosiphon, Spanish Bluebell Hyacinthoides hispanica, Spanish Iris Iris xiphium, Spanish Daffodil Narcissus hispanicus, Spanish Stonecrop Sedum hispanicum, Spanish Catchfly Silene otites or Spanish Dagger Yucca gloriosa [plants with similar names but in differing genera].

Uniquely identifiable characteristics

Distinguishing Feature : see captions above.

No relation to : Brome [a grass plant with similar name].

Not to be confused with or mistaken for: Spanish Gorse (Genista hispanica) but that has (sharp) spines whereas Spanish Broom is spineless.

The genus Spartium contains only Scotch Broom, even worldwide. Scotch Broom is native to the Mediterranean part of Southern Europe, SW Asia and NW Africa. In the UK it is mostly planted. The specific epithet junceum refers to the rush-like appearance of the long straight feintly-ridged stems. A yellow dye can be extracted from Scotch Broom; fibres can be extracted from the stems once used to make cloth and it also produces the essential oil Genet Absolute, which is used as a flavouring.


  Spartium junceum  ⇐ Global Aspect ⇒ Fabaceae  

Distribution
 family8Pea family8Fabaceae

 BSBI maps
genus8Spartium
Spartium
(Spanish Broom)

SPANISH BROOM

Spartium junceum

Pea Family [Fabaceae]