9th April 2022
In the UK the broom is considered a shrub rather than a tree and in its cultivated forms has decorative yellow and red blooms. Native to North Africa and the Middle East is another member of the broom family known as the retama broom. The retama raetam or white weeping broom, grows to a height of 3m and up to 6m in spread. As well as being able to photosynthesise through its leaves, it can also photosynthesise through its stem which enables it to grow in hot, dry conditions. Its fruits (pea-like) and flowers provide food for goats, and its branches have been used as fuel since ancient times. Its deep roots help stabilise sandy soils.
In the Jewish tradition, the tree under which Hagar leaves Ishmael to die, for they had run out of water, is said to be the broom tree. It is also the broom tree (although alternatively it is said to have been a juniper tree!) under which the despairing Elijah also lies down having fled from Jezebel’s murderous rage. Both Hagar and Elijah then receive refreshment from God. The broom tree is thus said to symbolise renewal.
Create in me a clean heart, O God, And renew a steadfast spirit within me. Psalm 51:10
“What is the scent of water?” “Renewal. The goodness of God coming down like dew.” Elizabeth Goudge, The Scent of Water