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Cytisus scoparius - Scotch Broom
Scientific Name: Cytisus scoparius
Common Name: Scotch Broom
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.1
The plant had a variety of uses. It was recommended for hedges in Virginia and for feeding pigs and sheep.2 It was also used for medicinal purposes, cloth and paper-making, and as a substitute for hops and coffee.3 However, its most well-known function was as a broom, hence its name.4
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.
- Peggy Cornett, n.d.
Primary Source References
1813 March 12. (Jefferson to John H. Cocke). "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 succeeds, altho sometimes it does not come up till the second spring."6
- Thiébaut de Berneaud, Arsenne. Du Genêt, considéré Sous le rapport de ses différentes Espèces, de ses Propriétés et des Avantages qu'il offre à l'Agriculture et à l'Economie domestique. Paris: Chez D. Colas, 1810. See page 85.
- Thomas Jefferson Center for Historic Plants.
- 1. See "Feb. 1790 Planting," Jefferson Papers, Special Collections, University of Virginia Library, and Jefferson's plans for a garden or pleasure grounds, 1804, Coolidge Collection of Thomas Jefferson Manuscripts, 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 available online at the Coolidge Collection.
- 2. Ann Leighton, American Gardens in the Eighteenth Century (Amherst: University of Massachusetts Press, 1986), 414; Alice M. Coats, Garden Shrubs and Their Histories (New York: Simon and Schuster, 1992), 63.
- 3. Coats, Garden Shrubs, 64.
- 4. Ibid.
- 5. Betts, Garden Book, 248. Transcription available at Founders Online.
- 6. PTJ:RS, 6:7. Transcription available at Founders Online.