Butcher’s broom: cultivation and care of the winter plant

Butcher's broom: the cultivation of the winter plant

The pungopo represents one of the ornamental plants most popular and loved, chosen to beautify homes during the autumn period and, above all, close to Christmas. A variety renamed in this way in the popular translation for its leaves with spikes, the butcher’s broom grows spontaneously almost throughout Italy, in particular near the mountain ranges. But it can be collected or, alternatively, cultivated independently? And, again, does it have other uses than the simple decoration of the rooms?

This plant is very interesting in many respects, not only for its beautiful appearance, but also for its useful properties for the organism. Below is all the useful information on the uses, its collection and the cultivation at home level.

Butcher’s broom: what it is

The Ruscus aculeatus – known to most as butcher’s broom – is an evergreen shrub belonging to the family of Asparagaceae, very widespread throughout the Italian territory. It is a shrubby plant, which can reach 80-100 centimeters in height, whose growth is almost spontaneous close to the mountainous areas of the boot.

The plant it is characterized by a shrubby habit, with thin but very rigid stems, from which develop characteristics leaves. These are oval, with an intense green color and pointed: on the extremity there is in fact a spike, a real defense weapon for the plant. During the spring, the butcher’s broom then produces characteristic features green flowers, from which showy ones develop berries Red.

The plant is diotic, so it includes male and female flowers and is therefore able to reproduce autonomously. It is common to find it in the undergrowth and in many places it is a protected variety, as it is essential to guarantee plant biodiversity, but also for the nourishment of numerous wild animal species, especially birds.

What is the name of the butcher’s broom in Italian?

The term butcher’s broom represents the popular definition of Ruscus aculeatus, a name born from the singular shape of its leaves. Since it is small in stature and has sharp leaves, in popular tradition it is believed that the plant can sting all the small animals that approach to steal the berries, in particular rodents.

However, there is no shortage of many dialect names assigned to the plant:

  • Abruzzo: crazy asparagus, vischiarna;
  • Basilicata: bruscio;
  • Calabria: granara, sparacin, sarvaggiu;
  • Campania: rascagatte, frascina;
  • Emilia Romagna: punz-pondga, zigasorgh;
  • Lazio: scacciaragni;
  • Liguria: punziratti, cocca grass, abrupt;
  • Lombardy: Brusco, spinasorech, spinarat;
  • Marche: brooms bruschie, bruscolo;
  • Piedmont: spongiarat, agrovert, spars bastard;
  • Puglia: geroselle, broom;
  • Sardinia: fresh, fish, spinach;
  • Sicily: runzu, spinapulici, spinedda;
  • Tuscany: piccasorci;
  • Veneto: rust, bruscu, brusazorzi.

However, it is useful to underline how the butcher’s broom, at least at the dialectal and regional level, is often confused with holly.

Butcher’s broom and holly: the differences

Butcher's broom and holly

As already mentioned, very often the butcher’s broom is confused with theagrifoglio. In reality, these are two very distinct varieties which, despite having characteristics in common, see a very different development. Just think of how holly is able to grow up to 10 meters in height.

Holly is theIlex aquifolium, called in some regions of Italy as thorny laurel or butcher’s broom. The common butcher’s broom, as specified in the previous paragraphs, is the Ruscus aculeatus. The big difference, in addition to the height, is given by the leaves and berries: the holly has leaves with different spines, while the butcher’s broom only on the apical sum. Still, theIlex aquifolium produces smaller berries and white flowers.

What is butcher’s broom used for?

The butcher’s broom is primarily used for ornamental purposes, especially in winter. Its green and glossy leaves, combined with the beautiful red berries, make it a perfect decoration for the Christmas or a welcome gift for loved ones.

Today the ornamental use is the most widespread but, especially in the past, the plant was also chosen for other purposes:

  • Medicinal use: as a diuretic, vasoconstrictor and kidney aid;
  • Food use: stems and suckers were consumed in a similar way to asparagus.

The question therefore arises spontaneously: you can eat the butcher’s broom? It’s still, the butcher’s broom is poisonous for health? As already mentioned, in the past suckers and stems were consumed of the plant, in a similar way to asparagus. Today, although the use is rare, dried shoots and roots are used, to be added to salads or soups.

Healing properties of Ruscus

Belly health

Over the years, several have been confirmed healing properties of the butcher’s broom. These are mainly due to its flavonoids, but above all to ruscogenin, a substance with an anti-inflammatory effect contained in the whole plant.

Generally speaking, it can be useful for:

  • Diuresis: the plant stimulates the action of the kidney, improving blood purification and bladder activity;
  • Inflammations: precisely because ruscogenin has anti-inflammatory activity, the extracts of the plant are used to relieve irritations;
  • Circulation: the butcher’s broom can have a protective action on the veins, also improving the resistance of their walls. By the same principle, it can be chosen for the topical treatment of hemorrhoids.

When can butcher’s broom be harvested?

Pungopo, bacchus

Although it is a spontaneous plant present in many areas of the boot, the butcher’s broom it cannot always be collected in nature. In some areas of the country it is in fact prohibited, as it is considered an indispensable variety for the survival of the undergrowth and indispensable for the biodiversity. Not surprisingly, small animals and birds regularly feed on its berries.

To understand if the butcher’s broom can be collected, one must inquire with the forestry authorities of one’s place of residence, as well as with the administrations of the natural parks. If the harvest is allowed, it usually proceeds from September until late winter.

How to grow the butcher’s broom in pots


Precisely since the butcher’s broom cannot always be collected in nature, why not buy a specimen and grow it in pots – perhaps exhibiting it on the balcony – or in a small garden? It will elegantly decorate green spaces, bringing color and also attracting small and useful animals.

The plant can also be grown for seme or for talea, the latter method most popular since it allows to obtain a specimen with the same genetic characteristics of the original shrub. Just cut a lateral branch of the plant, about 10 centimeters long, and dip it in a solution of sand and peat until the roots appear. After that, he can be moved to his final home. The best times for this operation are spring and autumn.

Here are some useful tips.

Climate and sun exposure

This plant is used to climates mostly distant, cool and not particularly sunny. It resists frosts well, as it is a winter variety and is not afraid of sudden changes in temperature.

It is therefore useful to prefer aexposure in the shade, or at most in partial shade, to artificially recreate the coolness typical of the undergrowth. In summer, therefore, the plant must be placed in a particularly sheltered place from the sun.

Recommended soil

The butcher’s broom loves i moist soils, soft or at most medium-textured. As a rustic variety, it could also resist other configurations topsoil, but this could limit the flowering and the appearance of the berries.

For growing in pots, it is advisable to arrange a bed of shards, gravel and expanded clay balls in the background. This is to increase the flow of water and avoid stagnation, which is harmful to the butcher’s broom.

Care and maintenance

The butcher’s broom does not require a great deal of maintenance, although it will be necessary to prune from time to time sprigs in excess. Watering must be sporadic – if outdoors, seasonal rainfall may be enough – but a certain humidity must never be lacking. For this, inside the apartments it is useful to expose it in the bathroom.

There are no big ones parasites that attack the butcher’s broom, although it will always be necessary to check for the presence of aphids or scale insects. Repotting is possible, especially when the growth is too fast, to guarantee the roots more space for development.

Source: GreenStyle by www.greenstyle.it.

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