Prickly pear - Kolymbari, north west Crete
West Crete Journal, August 2005

Spanish broom

Origin: Western Mediterranean basin (Spain, Morocco, Canary Islands)
Spartium junceum

Spanish Broom is a small shrub, grown as an ornamental plant. The flowers are large, yellow and emit a pleasant scent.  It is widely found growing by roadsides and on upland patches in Crete, and often in pots in the courtyards of Cretan homes.

The flowers produce a yellow dye, and by grinding the twigs a tough fibre can be obtained, which is made into thread in Languedoc, and twine and coarse cloth in Dalmatia.

The leaflets are said to produce a dye like indigo by fermentation, and are also reported as a laxative.

Although pretty, all parts of the plant are poisonous.  It is identified with the Spartium of the ancients, which is reputed to have been very violent in action and was said by Gerard and other herbalists "to cause to vomit with great violence, even as white Hellebor."