Monday, December 19, 2011

Butcher's Broom

A couple of Sunday's ago I was curled up on the couch with a blanket, a mug of coffee and the (extremely thick) Sunday paper. Andrew came home from walking the dog and presented me with a leaf, and then drew me a map.

The leaf looked like these: And the map was to the treasure located on the Northwest corner of McMenamins Kennedy School. The plant is Ruscus aculeatus or Butcher's Broom and I’ve learned that isn’t really a leaf it’s a “cladode.” A cladode is a stem modified for photosynthesis that looks like a leaf. It is flat for increasing the surface area, thick for storing water and green for photosynthesis (definition found here)

Of course the most interesting thing about this plant and its leaf cladode is the little “about to flower” bit right in the middle. Here’s a better photo of the flower… (photo by Réginald Hulhoven, found on Wikimedia Commons)

And of the berry that comes later… (photo by Biopics, found on Wikimedia Commons)

Pretty cool huh? Naturally since I was at Kennedy School I wandered around a bit as there are always things to see, especially on sunny December afternoon. I wish you could have seen how the sun was lighting these auburn leaves, the light post peeking out from behind add to the mood. Last Monday I posted a photo of this same sedum in my garden. Theirs is much more colorful. This agave has powered through a couple of winters now, hopefully it will do the same again this year. This must be Melianthus major 'Purple Haze'…if my regular old Melianthus lives through another winter (this will be its second) maybe I’ll have to add this one to the garden. Love that purple blush!


  1. The flower in the middle of the "leaf" is definitely interesting, but I don't think I'd grow this (if I could). I think I'd get annoyed at the blooms "messing up" the look of the great foliage.

    Informative post though!

  2. Great plant post and I am committing right now to NOT add it to my seed list this next season, but, maybe I'll add it in 2013. I love the middle-of-the-leaf thing!

  3. That plant is so cool...who knew! LOVE the 'Purple Haze' very gorgeous.

  4. "Cladode" huh? Who knew? I love adding peculiar new words to my vocabulary, though I doubt it will work its way naturally into many conversations...right in there with "ensorcelled".

  5. ... and if you have ever grabbed it by mistake, you know why it is called Butcher's Broom.

  6. Love the purple coloring that happens when it cools down. What a strange and very cool adaptation.....I learned something new today:)

  7. How clever of your husband to spot that unusual leaf and to bring it home for you to do some homework.

  8. A most delightful plant, but as my mantra seems to go whenever I discuss plants with you, probably not suitable for Zone 5! As for the Melianthus..... another one that I've been lusting for - in specific Antanow's Blue, but have never been able to find any around here! Happy Holidays!

  9. Alan, funny that thought never occurred to me...

    Ann, 2013? Funny...that's thinking (and planning) ahead, I've never been real good at that.

    scott, while I love the oddity of the Butchers Broom it's the Melianthus that I'll be thinking about...

    ricki, work them both into a sentence and you'll be the champ...

    Les, really? Oh gosh...I need to try this (carefully).

    Rohrerbot, I've learned a lot from your blog, glad to repay the favor.

    Lancashire Rose, he's trying to earn the title of blog content contributor...

    Barry, no Melianthus!? I'm sorry...that's not good. Maybe in the new year...and Happy Holidays to you too!

  10. Thanks greatly for your post. I have two bushes of butcher's broom in my garden and have been trying to identify them for weeks since moving into a new house in Sydney near Lane Cove National Park. Never seen this plant before.


  11. AnonymousJuly 30, 2013

    can you eat butcher's broom red berry? or what parts are edible so i can eat them respond me as soon as possible pls cause i have 2 shrubs i mygarden with the fruit .....and if you can tell me what parts i can eat from this plant

  12. Found out what this was today after nearly a year. Great little plant that we have in a CDB office building. Handles low light and reconstituted air, does really well, and the little flowers are a great talking point with customers.

  13. Muhammad Faheem SafdarDecember 25, 2023

    Luckily I got three of them potted from a local nursery in Multan, Punjab, Pakistan. They're slow growing though but look lush.


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