Photo by Melody

PlantFiles: Butcher's Broom, Christmas Berry Butcher's Broom
Ruscus aculeatus

Family: Asparagaceae
Genus: Ruscus (RUS-kus) (Info)
Species: aculeatus (ah-kew-lee-AY-tus) (Info)

Synonym:Oxymyrsine pungens
Synonym:Ruscus flexuosus
Synonym:Ruscus laxus
Synonym:Ruscus parasiticus
Synonym:Ruscus ponticus

3 vendors have this plant for sale.

9 members have or want this plant for trade.


36-48 in. (90-120 cm)

24-36 in. (60-90 cm)

USDA Zone 7a: to -17.7 C (0 F)
USDA Zone 7b: to -14.9 C (5 F)
USDA Zone 8a: to -12.2 C (10 F)
USDA Zone 8b: to -9.4 C (15 F)
USDA Zone 9a: to -6.6 C (20 F)
USDA Zone 9b: to -3.8 C (25 F)

Sun Exposure:
Partial to Full Shade

Plant has spines or sharp edges; use extreme caution when handling

Bloom Color:

Bloom Time:
Late Winter/Early Spring


Other details:
This plant may be considered a protected species; check before digging or gathering seeds

Soil pH requirements:
5.6 to 6.0 (acidic)
6.1 to 6.5 (mildly acidic)
6.6 to 7.5 (neutral)

Patent Information:

Propagation Methods:
By dividing rhizomes, tubers, corms or bulbs (including offsets)
From seed; direct sow outdoors in fall
From seed; winter sow in vented containers, coldframe or unheated greenhouse

Seed Collecting:
Allow seedheads to dry on plants; remove and collect seeds

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2 positives
1 neutral
No negatives

Gardeners' Notes:

Positive JerusalemCherry On Oct 4, 2007, JerusalemCherry from Dunellen, NJ (Zone 6b) wrote:

Sometimes called Christmas Berry, Butcher's Broom. Origin of this plant is listed as England, Iran, Mediterranean area.

Positive philomel On Sep 24, 2004, philomel from Castelnau RB Pyrenes
France (Zone 8a) wrote:

This plant is a native of Europe and is an indicator species for ancient woodland.
I am happy to say it is growing wild in my garden in SW France. A very attractive plant when it is bearing the bright red berries - though not so good to walk through as the points of the leaves are needle sharp.

Neutral Baa On Sep 23, 2001, Baa wrote:

Evergreen, peculiar shrub native to West and Southern Europe and not uncommon in Great Britain.

Has cladodes (green flattened stems) ovate or lanceolate with a spiny tip in place of leaves. Bears tiny, dull green, star shaped 6 petalled flowers in the centre of the cladode. Stems are green, erect and have no bark. The flowers may be male, female or hermaphrodite on this species. Female and hermaphrodite plants bear bright red berries through Autumn and Winter.

Flowers January - April

Loves dry shade but will grow in any soil as long as it isn't waterlogged for any length of time.

Its main common name comes from the practise of tieing branches together and using it to sweep butchers blocks.

It also had other uses in the past, none that I recommend you try.

The young shoots were once boiled and eaten like asparagus, to which it is related.

People would flog chilblains with the branches, use it as a diuretic, treat jaundice, scrophulus tumours and to remove phlegm. It was also made into a poultice and used to mend broken bones.

Eating the berries will cause stomach upset.


This plant has been said to grow in the following regions:

Raleigh, North Carolina
Austin, Texas
San Antonio, Texas

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