Monday, June 29, 2009

Spanish broom

For several weeks in Spring and early Summer, sweetly scented, bright yellow flowers appear in clusters at the tips of upright or ascending green cylindrical stems of this shrub which grows 2-9 ft (60-300 cm) tall, depending on site conditions. The leaves are small, few in number, and present only for a brief time. For most of the year photosynthesis is performed by the spineless green stems. This greatly reduces the evaporative loss of water from the plant during long periods of dry weather. Grows on dry sunny slopes, roadsides and pastures.

Scientific name: Spartium junceum
Italian common name: Ginistra comune
English common name: Spanish broom

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Spiny broom

In spring, this densely branched, spiny shrub with 3-parted leaves is blanketed with masses of bright yellow flowers. It grows to 6 ft (2 m) tall, and may be seen as a single specimen, in small groups and often in large spreading colonies. Bacteria which form nodules on the roots of this Sicilian native fix atmospheric nitrogen for the host and nearby plants. Grows on dry, rocky slopes and hillsides with full sun exposure.

Scientific name: Calicotome villosa
Italian common name: Calicotome
English common name: Spiny broom

Mauritania grass

This tough, perennial Mediterranean grass may form clumps as much as 6 ft (2 m) tall and wide, although plants are smaller on less favorable sites. The long stalked flower plumes may extend 3 ft (1 m) above the foliage. In times past the slender, durable leaves were made into mattress stuffing and chair seats, rustic brooms and baskets, and short-lived torches. The leaves were also braided to make crude rope and fishing line and to fasten grape vines to their support. Housewives used the flower stalks for forming macaroni. Nowadays other materials are available for these needs and the grass is seldom collected to make artisanal products. Grows on sunny, rocky hillsides and is one of the first plants to appear after forest fire.

Scientific name: Ampelodesmos mauritanicus
Italian common name: Tagliamani
English common name: Mauritania grass