Although the Spanish Broom (Maltese name: Ġenista Safra, Scientific name: Spartium junceum) is native of the Mediterranean region (including Malta), only a few specimens actually exist in the wild on our Islands.
The Spanish Broom is a perennial evergreen shrub or small tree which may reach a height of around one to three meters. This tree is spineless and spans out in many rush-like, green branches. It is practically leafless, as its sparse simple leaves are short-lived. When present, they are linear or elliptical shaped, with tiny hairs on the under-surface. The large yellow flowers, borne either singly or in small clusters along the younger twigs, have a very sweet scent.
The fruits are long, and its flat legumes (seed-pods) which are at first covered with short hairs, become smooth and black when mature. They then spilt open, often with an audible crack, to spread the numerous seeds.
Legume plants such as the Spanish Broom are known for their ability to replenish the soil with nitrogen. They are able to do this because they host nitrogen - fixing bacteria in their roots (in root nodules). The relationship between the plant and the bacteria is a symbiotic one; meaning that both the tree and the bacteria benefit from this association.
In some countries, the flexible branches of the Spanish Broom are used for making brooms, baskets and weaving. The plant is also used to produce yellow dye and essential oils.
The Spanish Broom is considered to be a strictly protected tree under national legislation and one should not prune, fell or uproot this tree without previously obtaining the necessary permits from the Competent Authorities.