The Ruscus Aculeatus is referred to by a variety of names such as Butcher’s Broom and Box Holly. A small, evergreen shrub it rarely exceeds one meter in height. It spreads outward approximately one metre. A slower grower, the Ruscus aculeatus does not reach full maturity until it is ten to twenty years old.
The evergreen leaves of the Ruscus aculeatus are erect and tough. They features striated stems that are an eye-catching glossy green. The leaves look thorny but the thorns are only false. Interestingly, the shrub is commonly called a Butcher’s Broom because historically butchers favoured making brooms out of the tree’s tough foliage. They used the small hand brooms to clean their butcher blocks and cutting boards.
Historically, the compounds in Butcher’s Broom have been used in a variety of medications. Studies indicate that the plant’s compounds contain strong anti-inflammatory, diuretic, and laxative properties. Today the plant’s components are still under investigation by medical researchers for their possible medicinal uses.
During the early spring months, the Butcher’s Broom produces small, light green flowers that stand out in stark contrast against the shrub’s dark green foliage. The flowers quickly give way to brilliant, glossy, red berries. The berries only develop on the female plants and persist throughout the summer months and into the winter.
The dried stems of the Butcher’s Broom are a favourite addition to flower arrangements and widely utilized by florists, especially during the holidays when the plant’s shoots are used to create wreaths and other festive decorations.
The Butcher’s Broom or Box Holly shrub is exceptionally hardy and requires virtually no care once established. It grows well in a wide array of soil conditions, however it does not tolerate flooded areas where it will be exposed to constantly wet roots. Once established, it can withstand periods of long drought. The small, hardy shrub is virtually pest and disease free.
Box Holly requires no pruning to maintain its size and shape. However, in the spring months, if a dead shoot should develop, it can be easily clipped away and discarded. Cut the shoot as close to the base of the plant as possible.
Plant the Butcher’s Broom in sunlight or shade. It is an ideal shrub to plant beneath large trees where it will receive dappled sunlight.