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Scotch broom

(Cytisus scoparius)

Photo of Scotch broom
Photo credit: Nisa Karimi

A fast-growing shrub in the legume family that grows to be 3-12’ tall. Branches are greenish-brown with five ridges when young that become smoother and tan as they mature.

Overview

Other names for this plant include:
  • Common names: English broom, common broom, broomtops
  • Scientific names: Genista scoparius; Sarothamnus scoparius, S. vulgaris; Spartium scoparium
Ecological threat:
  • Scotch broom is often found in sandy areas such as dunes or beaches where its nitrogen-fixing and stabilizing qualities can present a risk to the natural habitat.
  • It is also found along roadsides and pastures where it can readily move into natural areas after disturbance such as fire or logging.
  • Slightly toxic and can cause symptoms in animals if large quantities are eaten.
 Overview map of prohibited classification in WI
Prohibited (red) counties

Classification in Wisconsin: Prohibited

Species Assessment Groups (SAG) were assembled to recommend a legal classification for each species considered for NR 40. The recommendation for Scotch broom was based upon this literature review [PDF] developed by the department.

Identification

Leaves: The leaves are compound, alternate and have 3 leaflets that are dark green above and pale green and hairy below. As leaves move further up the plant, they become sessile and may be a single small leaf.

Flowers: Are generally bright yellow but may also appear a two-toned yellow or may even have a purple ting or red streak. The pea-like flowers appear singly or in pairs in the upper leaf axils and bloom from late March to June.

Fruits & seeds: Seed pods are flat and have fuzzy edges. Pods are green and as they mature turn brown or black in late summer. Each pod contains 5-8 bean-like seeds that are viable for 60 years and burst from the pods when mature.

Roots: A taproot is produced that can exceed 2 feet long with large shallow lateral roots. Scotch broom can also resprout from the root crown.

Control

Mechanical: Small plants can be pulled or dug out; in fire-adapted communities, burning can be effective if done every 2-4 years to deplete seed bank.

Chemical: Basal bark with triclopyr plus oil soon after flowering; foliar spray with 2,4-D.

Photos

View Scotch broom pictures in our photo gallery!

Resources

Sources for content:
  • Czarapata, Elizabeth; Invasive Plants of the Upper Midwest: an illustrated guide to their identification and control. University of Wisconsin Press. 2005. Pg. 124
  • Invasive Plant Atlas of New England: Scotch broom [exit DNR].
Links for more information: