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Scotch broom

Scotch broom (Cytisus scoparius)

A fast growing shrub in the Legume family that grows to be 3-12’ tall. Branches are greenish brown with five ridges when young that become smoother and tan as they mature.


Regulated areas of Scotch broom
Scotch broom is Prohibited (Red counties)

Other names for this plant include:

  • Common names: English broom, common broom, broomtops
  • Scientific names: Genista scoparius; Sarothamnus scoparius, S. vulgaris; Spartium scoparium

Ecological threat:

  • Scotch broom is often found in sandy areas such as dunes or beaches where its nitrogen-fixing and stabilizing qualities can present risk to the natural habitat.
  • It is also found along roadsides and pastures where it can readily move into natural areas after disturbance such as fire or logging.
  • Slightly toxic and can cause symptoms in animals if large quantities are eaten.

Classification in Wisconsin: Prohibited

Species Assessment Groups (SAG) were assembled to recommend a legal classification for each species considered for NR 40. The recommendation for Scotch broom was based upon this literature review developed by the department.


Leaves: The leaves are compound, alternate and have 3 leaflets that are dark green above and pale green and hairy below. As leaves move further up the plant, they become sessile and may be a single small leaf.

Flowers: Are generally bright yellow but may also appear a two-toned yellow or may even have a purple ting or red streak. The pea-like flowers appear in singly or in pairs in the upper leaf axils and bloom from late March to June.

Fruits & seeds: Seed pods are flat and have fuzzy edges. Pods are green and as they mature turn brown or black in late summer. Each pod contains 5-8 bean-like seeds that are viable for 60 years and burst from the pods when mature.

Roots: A taproot is produced that can exceed 2 feet long with large shallow lateral roots. Scotch broom can also resprout from the root crown.


Known county distribution of Scotch broom
Counties in WI where Scotch broom has been reported (as of July 2011). Both vouchered and unvouchered reports included.

Do you have Scotch broom in your county but it isn't shaded on the map? Send us a report.


Mechanical: Small plants can be pulled or dug out; in fire adapted communities, burning can be effective if done every 2-4 years to deplete seedbank.

Chemical: Basal bark with triclopyr plus oil soon after flowering; foliar spray with 2,4-D.


View Scotch broom pictures in our photo gallery!


Sources for content:

  • Czarapata, Elizabeth; Invasive Plants of the Upper Midwest: an illustrated guide to their identification and control. University of Wisconsin Press. 2005. Pg. 124
  • Invasive Plant Atlas of New England: Scotch broom [exit DNR].

Links for More Information

Last revised: Monday June 03 2019