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Ruscus aculeatus - L.

Common Name Butcher's Broom - Knee Holly
Family Ruscaceae
USDA hardiness 6-9
Known Hazards The berries are purgative[8]. Caution required if used in patients on treatment for high blood pressure. An increase in tone of veins can influence blood pressure allowing more blood to flow to the heart [301].
Habitats Outskirts of dry woods and in moist uncultivated ground especially on chalk[7, 17, 186].
Range Western and southern Europe from Britain to Switzerland, south to the Mediterranean.
Edibility Rating    (1 of 5)
Other Uses    (1 of 5)
Weed Potential No
Medicinal Rating    (3 of 5)
Care (info)
Fully Hardy Well drained soil Moist Soil Full shade Semi-shade
Ruscus aculeatus Butcher

Ruscus aculeatus Butcher


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Physical Characteristics

 icon of manicon of shrub
Ruscus aculeatus is an evergreen Shrub growing to 0.8 m (2ft 7in) by 1 m (3ft 3in) at a slow rate.
See above for USDA hardiness. It is hardy to UK zone 7. It is in leaf all year, in flower from January to April, and the seeds ripen from August to March. The species is dioecious (individual flowers are either male or female, but only one sex is to be found on any one plant so both male and female plants must be grown if seed is required). and is pollinated by Insects. The plant is not self-fertile.
Suitable for: light (sandy), medium (loamy) and heavy (clay) soils, prefers well-drained soil and can grow in heavy clay and nutritionally poor soils. Suitable pH: mildly acid, neutral and basic (mildly alkaline) soils and can grow in very alkaline soils.
It can grow in full shade (deep woodland) or semi-shade (light woodland). It prefers dry or moist soil and can tolerate drought.

UK Hardiness Map US Hardiness Map


Ruscus flexuosus. Ruscus laxus. Ruscus parasiticus. Ruscus ponticus

Plant Habitats

Woodland Garden Dappled Shade; Shady Edge; not Deep Shade; Ground Cover;

Edible Uses

Edible Parts: Shoots  Stem
Edible Uses: Coffee

Young shoots - cooked[1, 2, 4, 5, 8, 11]. They are harvested in the spring as they grow through the soil and used as an asparagus substitute[7, 183]. The taste is pungent and rather bitter[132, 183]. The roasted seed is a coffee substitute[1, 105, 183].

References   More on Edible Uses

Medicinal Uses

Plants For A Future can not take any responsibility for any adverse effects from the use of plants. Always seek advice from a professional before using a plant medicinally.
Antipruritic  Aperient  Deobstruent  Depurative  Diaphoretic  Diuretic  Vasoconstrictor

Butcher's broom is little used in modern herbalism but, in view of its positive effect upon varicose veins and haemorrhoids, it could be due for a revival[254]. The root is aperient, deobstruent, depurative, diaphoretic, diuretic and vasoconstrictor[4, 7, 238]. It has been taken internally in the past in the treatment of jaundice, gout, and kidney and bladder stones, at the present time it is used to treat venous insufficiency and haemorrhoids[238]. It should not be prescribed for patients with hypertension[238]. It is also applied externally in the treatment of haemorrhoids[238]. The root is harvested in the autumn and dried for later use[4]. The whole plant is also sometimes used[4]. This remedy should not be given to people with high blood pressure[254]. The plant contains saponin glycosides, including ruscogenin and neoruscogenin. These substances are anti-inflammatory and cause the contraction of blood vessels, especially veins[254]. The German Commission E Monographs, a therapeutic guide to herbal medicine, approve Ruscus aculeatus for haemorrhoids (piles) and venous conditions (see [302] for critics of commission E) [301].

References   More on Medicinal Uses

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Other Uses

Broom  Scourer

Mature shoots are bound into bunches and used as scourers or as besoms[4, 6, 8, 11, 100, 182].

Special Uses

Ground cover

References   More on Other Uses

Cultivation details

Tolerant of most soils[11], including chalky and heavy clay soils[200]. Prefers a shady position[1, 31], tolerating dense dry shade and bad growing conditions[186], including the drip-line of trees[182]. Dislikes much wetness at the roots[186]. Established plants are drought resistant[186]. A very hardy plant, when fully dormant it can tolerate temperatures down to about -25°c[187]. Plants have a slowly creeping tough rootstock and eventually form large clumps[187]. Plants in this genus are notably resistant to honey fungus[200]. Plants are unusual in that the flowers are produced from the middle of the leaf[4]. Although normally dioecious, some hermaphrodite forms are known[200]. One of these is called 'Sparkler'. Male and female plants must usually be grown if seed is required.

References   Carbon Farming Information and Carbon Sequestration Information

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Plant Propagation

Seed - sow the seed thinly in early spring in a cold frame in light shade. The seed germinates better if it is given a period of cold stratification. Germination can be rather slow, sometimes taking 12 months or more. Grow the seedlings on in the pot in light shade in the greenhouse for their first growing season, giving occasional liquid feeds to ensure they do not suffer nutrient deficiencies. Prick them out into individual pots in the following spring and grow them on for at least another year in the pots before planting them out in early summer. Be very sure to protect the seedlings from slugs[K]. Division as the plant comes into growth in early spring[186]. Larger divisions can be planted out direct into their permanent positions. We have found it best to pot up the smaller divisions and grow them on in a lightly shaded position in a cold frame, planting them out once they are well established in the summer.

Other Names

If available other names are mentioned here

Weed Potential

Right plant wrong place. We are currently updating this section. Please note that a plant may be invasive in one area but may not in your area so it’s worth checking.

Conservation Status

IUCN Red List of Threatened Plants Status :

Related Plants
Latin NameCommon NameHabitHeightHardinessGrowthSoilShadeMoistureEdibleMedicinalOther

Growth: S = slow M = medium F = fast. Soil: L = light (sandy) M = medium H = heavy (clay). pH: A = acid N = neutral B = basic (alkaline). Shade: F = full shade S = semi-shade N = no shade. Moisture: D = dry M = Moist We = wet Wa = water.


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Botanical References


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Readers comment

malcolm   Mon Jun 19 2006

your description of its' likes and dislikes seems strange;The plant prefers light (sandy), medium (loamy) and heavy (clay) soils, requires well-drained soil and can grow in heavy clay and nutritionally poor soils. The plant prefers acid, neutral and basic (alkaline) soils and can grow in very alkaline soil. It can grow in full shade (deep woodland) or semi-shade (light woodland). It requires dry or moist soil and can tolerate drought.Just about covers everything except desert and the arctic. I am sure I read that it grows best in association with a particular species of tree but cannot remember which.

Ramon Sanchez   Mon Jun 18 2007

where can I buy this plant for medical uses

K Cooper   Sat Jul 26 2008

Topical creams, tablets and liquids containing extracts of the root of this plant are being produced in France for the treatment of "jambes lourds" (heavy legs) I have been using the cream for 1 week so early days for comments.

Chris   Fri Nov 20 2009

After pursuing various webpages discussing Ruscus Aculeatus, I have purchased some dried root. It is mentioned as good for hemorroids, with both internal and external application mentioned. I would appreciate some suggestions as to methodology - especially with reference to topical application. IE, should I boil it in a little water, then apply the cooled paste... or what?

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