Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Genista aetnensis, or Mt. Etna Broom

One sunny cold morning a couple weeks ago thick frost coated one of my Genista aetnensis in such a way that its graceful outlines were highlighted and I could finally get a picture of it… This odd tree is one of the favorite things I planted in our front garden this year (actually I love it so much I planted two) but it’s the very thing I love about it that also makes it nearly impossible to get a photo of; it doesn’t really have any leaves and it’s virtually see-through when it’s not blooming. (that is a bamboo pole in there helping support it's small trunk) Speaking of blooming here it is last July… It’s that see-through quality that I love and makes it the perfect tree for my garden; it allows me to have tree height, but not sacrifice sun for the surrounding plants. My love affair with this plant started years ago. I admired a couple of mature trees in another garden even before I knew what they were. Theirs are older so the trunk and branches are thick enough to photograph well. Last summer I got a bit of a shock when I saw just how big they can get. This photo was taken at Jungle Fever Exotics in Tacoma, WA. Why is seeing a 15-20 ft tall so much different than reading that one will eventually get to be that size? Do you have this disconnect too or is it just my issue?

Need more information? Here are a few descriptions of this plant from local nurseries…

Cistus Nursery
Graceful and elegant, small tree with sparse, silky leaves and stems that act like leaves. Nearly invisible to the eye until it covers itself in yellow, fragrant pea flowers in mid summer to early fall. Can reach 12-15 ft tall or so with a narrow, weeping habit. This native of Sicily takes full sun, lean soil that drains well, and little summer water once established. Does not reseed! Frost hardy to 5F, USDA zone 7b.

Xera Plants
Mt. Etna Broom, from the lava covered slopes of Italy and for that matter Europe’s tallest volcano makes a wonderful “shade-less” tree for hot sun. Rush-like weeping stems actually have tiny leaves that are barely noticeable. In summer you will notice the clouds of golden yellow pea flowers that emit the powerful perfume of Jasmine. To 14’ tall, best in full hot sun and poor, well drained soil. Little summer water when established. A great small tree for a see-through vertical effect, without being oppressive. Grows quickly, and is best without extra encouragement. Zn7b (5º to 10ºF) Papillionaceae

Gossler Farms
This Mediterranean native will make a small graceful tree to 20'. The deep green stems carry a few small leaves but the ground beneath the plant looks like its full sun because there are so few leaves. Genista aetnensis has small bright yellow Scotch Broom flowers that are wonderfully scented. We know what you think of a Scotch Broom, but please try this lovely small, graceful tree.

And Kate over at Portland Monthly did a great post on Genista aetnensis back in July, click here to read it.

Maybe you'll considering adding a Mt. Etna Broom to your garden?


  1. Pretty tree, it looks similar to our native Retama. I checked and they are not related. Retama is definitely a danger garden plant as it it covered with thorns.

  2. Ooh, I like it! Love the frost-covered photo too.

    Too cold here for it though. Zone envy rears its ugly head again. :-)

  3. Oho! Yes, this is going to replace loquat on my want-list...no time for prima donnas.

  4. So glad you included the Gossler Farms description because that remark, "We know what you think of a Scotch Broom,... etc." was written for me. Every time you have posted about your Mt Etna broom, I have had that negative knee-jerk reaction, and it's nice to have you and Roger Gossler disabusing me of my misconceptions. It is indeed a lovely small tree and perfect for not shading other species. Thanks for opening my eyes to its beauty!

  5. LOVE the first shot with the frosty branches...pure bliss! You are definitely NOT alone with the size issue. I seem to be entirely unable to gauge actual size of plants. Whenever I tour a nursery or garden with mature plants I kinda feel like I just got slapped upside the head with a little dose of reality. I know some people will actually make marks on their shovels for measurement...just so they can correctly judge size and spacing WHILE they plant. Of course, that makes sense...if I could just remember to do it ;-)

  6. I asked Santa to [magically] expand my fence line so I could have more room for all the plants I want. So far, Santa is snubbing me. Darn it. If I had the room, I'd definitely get this tree.

  7. I'd grow it if I had the space. Then again, it won't grow so tall if I keep it potted.

  8. Shirley, I hadn't heard of Retama so I looked it up. You're right they do look very similar, although the Retama blooms appear to be prettier, and of course thorns are a bonus!

    Alan, ah yes...I'm sorry. I do appreciate the reminder that I'm fairly blessed to be in zone 8. I take it for granted!

    ricki, this is definitely not a prima donna plant!

    MulchMaid, so glad to help! And that's exactly why I included the Gossler description, I figured a couple of folks might enjoy it.

    scott, well hell that's a crazy good idea! Kind of scary to think of how different my garden might look if I were that smart.

    Grace, darn Santa, what's wrong with him?

    Bom, so true!

  9. I definitely have that disconnect too. I've gotten a little better now and sometimes I use a measuring tape to get a sense of how big things are really supposed to get.

  10. Hi there...just wondering if you still love your Genista Aetnensis and if you have any photos of it this year?
    Thank you!

    1. No...sadly I decided it needed to go. There were too many plants in that section of the front garden and it was the least successful. If you're in Portland then visit Cistus Nursery on Sauvie Island. They've got a beautiful specimen right by the parking lot.


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