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Ruscus

Butcher’s Broom

Evergreen, Shrubs, Decorative fruit or berries

Flattened, leaflike branches do the work of leaves for these Old World natives, bearing tiny greenish white flowers in the centers of their upper surfaces. They are interesting in dried arrangements. If both male and female plants are present, or if you have a plant with male and female flowers, bright red (sometimes yellow), marble-size fruit follows the flowers. Tolerant of dry shade, a wide variety of soils, and competition from tree roots, these are valuable groundcovers under trees. They spread widely by rhizomes. Plants are subject to chlorosis in the desert.

Ruscus aculeatus (photo courtesy of Linda Lamb Peters)
Ruscus aculeatus (photo courtesy of Linda Lamb Peters)

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Ruscus aculeatus

Native from the Mediterranean and Black seas to the British Isles and the Azores. Grows to 1–4 ft. tall, with branched stems. Spine-tipped “leaves” are 1–3 in. long, a third as wide, leathery, and dull dark green.

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