Yellow’s on the Broom

This is the title of a Scottish song about the Travellers (sometimes called Tinkers) who lived a nomadic life which often settled for a short while during the harder winter months. The lyrics show the Traveller anxious for Spring and a new start to traveling.

The guided walk out to the reindeer herd at this time of year is particularly colourful because the broom is in full flower with its multitude of bright yellow flowers. After the muted colours of winter, old heather and deciduous trees without leaves the flowering broom brings splashes of colour into the hills. I can understand why the yellow Broom would have lifted the hearts of many a traveller.

The Hill Trip group paused for a breather at Utsi’s Bridge, about to cross the Allt Mhor Burn. The yellow Broom flowers light up the valley at this time of year.

In fact the daily hill visit to the reindeer which takes us across the Allt Mhor Burn to the summer grazing of part of the herd is incredibly picturesque just now, perhaps making up for the reindeer themselves who can look quite scruffy at this time of year as they lose their winter coats to reveal their short dark summer coats underneath.

Picture of a really scruffy reindeer

From a distance Broom can look really quite similar to Gorse, another shrub which has lurid yellow flowers.  Both plants tend to grow in the same kinds of places; heathlands, uncultivated land, roadsides etc. In a dense clump where both are found, it can be hard to tell where the Gorse ends and the Broom begins.

However once you get up close you immediately see the difference, Broom is a large, deciduous shrub, like Gorse, but without the spines. You would never push your way through a gorse bush in shorts, that’s for sure.

The soft stems of broom give no barrier to the hill wanderer.
In contrast, gorse is virtually impossible to pass through without a full coat of proection against those spines. Photo by Nigel Mykura.

For me, my personal preference is definitely Broom, with no sharp, jaggy spines and a slightly lighter coloured yellow flower, but it is a mystery to me why some areas are dominated by Gorse and others by Broom.

Perhaps a more learned person than me can come up with the answer..


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