Ruscus aculeatus

Family: Asparagaceae

This plant is aptly named ‘aculeatus’, Latin for ‘prickly’, because of the spiny tips of the deep green leaflike structures that are in fact stems. ‘Knee holly’ is a common name for Ruscus aculeatus because it resembles festive holly with it’s prickly leaves and red berries, only it will remain relatively low growing and graze your knee if you happen to brush against it!

This plant’s most common name is ‘Butcher’s broom’ because butchers learned to tie some branches together and clean their stalls and boards where meat was displayed. Prior to this Ruscus aculeatus was used to make brooms for sweeping the house. It grows widely in the UK in shady woodlands and hedgerows but is prevalent in southern England. Its leaflike structures store water fairly well so this plant is drought tolerant and grows in dry environments.

It has been known to have medicinal properties since at least 70 AD when it was described to help you pass urine, menstrual blood and even break up kidney stones. Research today tells us that it has instead been effective in treating varicose veins and haemorrhoids.


Heralding Spring Trail Map