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Scotch Broom

Scotch Broom

Common Name: Scotch Broom[1]

Scientific Name: Cytisus scoparius

Thomas Jefferson incorporated both Scotch and Spanish broom (Genista hispanica) into his early landscape schemes at Monticello, including his design for the grove and for an enormous labyrinth on the north side of the mountain.[2]

The plant had a variety of uses. It was recommended for hedges in Virginia and for feeding pigs and sheep.[3] It was also used for medicinal purposes, cloth and paper-making, and as a substitute for hops and coffee.[4] However, its most well-known function was as a broom, hence its name.[5] Today Scotch broom is found naturalized at Monticello and along the Virginia roadside. It is a hardy, spring-flowering shrub with bright yellow, pea-like flowers and thin, evergreen stems.

Primary Source References[6]

1807 May 13. (Jefferson to Edmund Bacon). "I wish him [Wormley] to gather me a peck or two of clean broom seed, when ripe."[7]

1813 March 13. (Jefferson to John H. Cooke). "Th: Jefferson presents his compliments to mr Cocke, whose servant is desired to take as many Broom plants as he pleases, but having never found them to succeed by transplantation, he sends him some seed, which generally suceeds. altho sometimes it does not come up till the second spring."[8]


  1. This article is based on a Center for Historic Plants Information Sheet.
  2. See "Feb. 1790 Planting," University of Virginia and Jefferson's plans for a garden or pleasure grounds, 1804 Coolidge Collection of Thomas Jefferson Manuscripts at the Massachusetts Historical Society. See also Jefferson's notation on March 16, 1812. The 1812 seeds came from Edinburgh via James Ronaldson. Betts, Garden Book, 475. Manuscript and transcription at the Massachusetts Historical Society.
  3. Ann Leighton, American Gardens in the Eighteenth Century (Amherst: The University of Massachusetts Press, 1986), 414; Alice M. Coats, Garden Shrubs and their Histories (New York: Simon and Schuster, 1992), 63.
  4. Coates, 64.
  5. Ibid.
  6. Please note that this list should not be considered comprehensive.
  7. Betts, Garden Book, 248.
  8. Ibid, 507.

Further Sources


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