butcher's broom


Butcher's broom is a stiff, evergreen shrub that is both attractive and unusual. It looks a little like a small holly but is actually a member of the lily family. The only monocotyledonous lily, the bitter roots are used to make an apéritif called petit-houx and the young shoots are eaten in France as pragon and in Italy as pungitopo. The true leaves are replaced by leaf-like cladodes, that is, green flattened stems which are lance-shaped with a spiny tip. The flowers are small, dull green and found in the centre of the cladodes. Male and female flowers appear on different plants, and if the female flower is fertilised it produces a striking scarlet berry which lasts into the winter. The woody branches of this plant used to be bound into bundles and sold to butchers for cleaning the meat from their chopping blocks.

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