Cytisus ‘Lilac time’ (Cytisus scoparius) is an evergreen shrub with very small leaves. Lilac-pink pea flowers adorn the bush in spring. I bought it in full-flower. It dazzled me with its charms. I failed to notice that it was in fact, a broom.
There are some good things to say about broom. They’re drought-tolerant and colonise disturbed and poorer soils, improving the soil; broom is leguminous, part of the Fabaceae family, and nitrogen-fixing. Broom stops erosion on hillsides. It’s a great food source for butterfly larvae. The flowers can be eaten in a salad. Don’t forget the prettiness!
On the very big downside, New Zealand has major problems with broom and its close cousin gorse (Ulex). Stock won’t eat it and it shades out pasture. It produces up to 30,000 seeds per square metre, every year. It outgrows saplings, effectively destroying crops of plantation trees and therefore is a major burden to the forestry industry. Apparently, only Pinus radiata can grow fast enough to compete with broom and tolerate the harsh herbicide treatments needed to treat sites infested with it. (I have major issues with Pinus radiata…but that’s a whole other post). So yeah, major problem for New Zealand. We’ve even started bringing in biological control agents to try to counter the spread.
So despite the fact that my pretty little shrub’s cousins are terrorising the country, I’ve provided a safe and loving home for this little one. He’ll only last for about 5 years. I will be watching it carefully though and chopping it back regularly to stop it seeding. I’ve planted it next to an outdoor seat framed by pittoporums, at the front of the house. Having it where I can see it every day, I’ll remember to keep it inline and not allow it to open up another invasion-front.
A note on New Zealand broom
New Zealand has a genus of its own broom called Carmichaelia. They are in the same Fabaceae family as the European species, but far-distant cousins. There are about 20 varieties.
Am I just providing safe-harbour to an enemy? Pretty vs Plague – let me know your thoughts…