Appalachia Appalachia Through My Eyes Wildflowers & Trees Of Appalachia

Appalachia Through My Eyes – Broomsedge Makes A Comeback

My life in appalachia broom sage makes a comeback

Broomsedge (broom-sage is the way we say it) is making a comeback in my area of Appalachia. Pap said when he was a boy he thought a field of waving broom-sage was one of the prettiest sights he’d ever seen.

As change and development came to the mountains, many of those broom-sage fields were destroyed. But in recent years broom sage has been making an appearance again.

I took the photo above as I sat in my bank’s drive-through. Several fields of broom-sage can be seen between my house and the folk school. And I can even see broom-sage shining through the trees across the creek on the ridge where they pushed a logging road in several years ago.

Broom-sage grows in abandoned areas and unused pastures and fields. I have no idea if it is a nuisance to farmers and ranchers…but I totally agree with Pap a field full of swaying broom-sage is a beautiful sight indeed.

Tipper

Appalachia Through My Eyes – A series of photographs from my life in Southern Appalachia.

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27 Comments

  • Reply
    Fay Pitts
    March 20, 2018 at 9:13 am

    I remember in the 40’s going out in the fields and the edges of woods in the fall of the year with Mama and my sisters and gathering armloads of Broomsage. Mama looked for the longed straws, cut, cleaned and stripped these of old blooms and made enough brooms to last until the next year. Sometime she made extra’s to give away to friends and relatives when they came to visit. We were a big family of nine and money was hard to come by. It was always fun when we went on these trips. I loved the old days.

  • Reply
    Julie
    October 4, 2017 at 9:52 pm

    Broomsedge hosts the butterfly larvae of the Zebulon Skipper species. Cutting or burning it in the fall destroys the larvae. And, like others have mentioned, the grass provides cover to rabbits, birds, and deer. Kids love it too! The grass is in my opinion, very pretty across its growing season from a slim shiny greenish brown to the coppery brown in late fall.

  • Reply
    John
    February 21, 2014 at 2:35 pm

    We call it Sage Grass in NW Alabama. Cows will eat it when it is bunchy and green in the summer. When it puts up the shoots in your picture that will quickly turn brown cows won’t eat it. It is undesirable in a pasture and fertilization is supposed to hurt it, probably by encouraging the desirable grasses to crowd it out. It is ubiquitous here.

  • Reply
    Sue Crane
    February 20, 2014 at 1:12 pm

    there’s a song When the Yellows on the Broom that is very pretty. Song about Travellers and having to be cooped up in winter time but he will “tak ye on the road agin when the yellow’s on the broom. Our friends, The Wherries, do a nice job of it.

  • Reply
    Suzi Phillips
    February 19, 2014 at 11:25 pm

    An old timer told me once that the only things to be found in Grassy Fork, Tn were fools, Fords, and broomsage!

  • Reply
    Tamela
    February 19, 2014 at 1:25 pm

    This is the best summary link I could find regarding Broomsedge: https://www.wildlifedepartment.com/hunting/vegetation_notes/vegetation_notes_bluestem.pdf
    I don’t recall seeing it in the pasture – but then our soil is a caliche mix underlain by pure limestone. Acidity is definitely not a factor here in Central Texas!
    This is Broomweed in these parts:
    essmextension.tamu.edu Unfortunately, we have it in abundance. We have been trying to restore our acreage to native prairie but between the drought and the lack of shade on our property we haven’t been able to accomplish the cattle action needed to help the restoration along. We also need more dung beetle activity.
    The following is what I know as Purple Sage: http://austinnativelandscaping.com/leucophyllum-frutescens-texas-sage-cenizo-silverleaf-texas-ranger-barometer-bush-purple-sage/ . If you are lucky enough to have a true native and are not irrigating or watering your landscape, it truly is a barometer plant. It will bloom like crazy before a heavy rain – less for lesser amounts of rain. Some of the most beautiful bloom exhibits I ever saw while growing up in far South Texas were in the days before a hurricane hit. In the 50s we would know something was brewing in the gulf even before the forecasters did.
    There’s another group of sage plants which have flower spikes, some of which can be used to season your savory dishes; but I always thought “my” purple sage was the one Zane Gray was talking about. The more I think about it, although parts of Utah could be in the far north edges of its range, I’m wondering if the smaller sage plant with the longer florescences is what the author was referring to.
    So many plants – so many names!!
    And, as is far too common, I’m taking off on a tangent from your original entry.
    Thanks for the “conversation”.

  • Reply
    Gary Fletcher
    February 19, 2014 at 4:03 pm

    Broom sedge provided a good place to hide when I was a boy. We also had BB gun fights in it.

  • Reply
    Ken Roper
    February 19, 2014 at 1:23 pm

    Tipper,
    Walking thru a big field of Broomsage
    is a sight to behold, especially when
    the wind blows. It will remind you of
    the Meritta Bread commercial that use
    to bring on The Lone Ranger.
    Some of my fondest memories of youth
    was rabbit hunting in Emmet’s Meadow.
    When our fiests jumped one, a deadly
    giveaway was watching for the parting
    of the broomsage just ahead of the
    dogs.
    Broomsage fields provided us a great
    place to play Cowpasture Football too. Didn’t hurt as bad when you got
    tackled on it either. We’d have to
    hurry to catch up on our chores for
    this…Ken

  • Reply
    b. Ruth
    February 19, 2014 at 10:12 am

    Tipper,
    Just reading the comments…Yes, Jim the front pasture was used, as most of it is downhill sedge! Our boys made great use of it in the winter sledding! They loved it!

  • Reply
    gailatthefarm
    February 19, 2014 at 10:08 am

    We have broom sage and try to keep it bush hogged. Fertilizing tends to let the other grazing grass be dominant…which is good for the grazers.

  • Reply
    Lise
    February 19, 2014 at 10:01 am

    It’s so beautiful! I do believe we have some surrounding our cabin, but I didn’t realize what it was. I’m glad it’s making a comeback!

  • Reply
    b. Ruth
    February 19, 2014 at 10:00 am

    Tipper,
    The grass you have pictured, we call sage grass! It is a obnoxious grass that grows in acid soil. I have patches of it in my front lawn. The front pasture is a wave of it above the knees that the deer love to wade through. In our old garden plot we used to burn it off evert spring. After August and into and thru winter it grows like crazy.
    It is a sure sign of acid soil that needs a load of winter liming to sit approximately three months to do any good for neutrilizing the soil before planting.
    My grandmother never made brooms of this type of sage grass…She used corn broom sedge/sage. It makes a strong broom. This grassy sage, I would think, would not last long made into a broom!
    Thanks Tipper,
    PS…It is pretty, but it is time to burn it off for Spring planting!
    The best way to rid yourself of it is to lime your soil.

    • Reply
      Don in Kansas
      February 19, 2020 at 1:23 pm

      We in the Ozarks called it “sage grass” and grandma always said it wasn’t good for much of anything. As others mentioned, it grew in old worn out soils and went away fertilized and limes. When I was in my grade school and early teens, I remember my older cousin and or a buddy I hung out with, making grass huts with it. For some reason the cows would always knock them down and lay of top of them. I don’t see it much anymore, but agree a field of it blowing in the wind is a pretty sight.

  • Reply
    Ken Ryan
    February 19, 2014 at 9:47 am

    It is very common here in E. Texas, but I never really knew what it was called.

  • Reply
    Shirla
    February 19, 2014 at 9:41 am

    Broom sage grows everywhere around here. I don’t recall ever hearing anyone say if it was good for anything. It is a pretty sight, but I’m anxious to see some wildflowers or anything with color that might have survived underneath all the snow.

  • Reply
    dolores
    February 19, 2014 at 8:45 am

    This is a new site for me; I never thought of its name, but only looked at its beauty especially in a flowing wind. Is it useful for animal feed?

  • Reply
    Ron Banks
    February 19, 2014 at 8:31 am

    I see some here and there but not an abundance of it. Mother told me they made brooms from it for sweeping and they even had one for sweeping the yard. Up in the hills they didn’t have pretty green lawns to mow. They had chickens running around and they had to sweep the yard to clear the droppings.

  • Reply
    steve in Tn
    February 19, 2014 at 8:22 am

    I remember it filling every meadow when I was young, but it was replaced by more productive and profitable grasses. It makes a good toothpick if you pull the top out to expose the main stem. I always think of the term “purple sage” from the dime store westerns I read when young. A wind blowing across a field of sage is a beautiful sight, much like a wheat field.

  • Reply
    Chad
    February 19, 2014 at 8:17 am

    Ialways heard the ground needed lime where broom sage was growing

  • Reply
    Ethelene Dyer Jones
    February 19, 2014 at 8:02 am

    I can’t say I see fields of broom sage now (and that’s how we said it in Choestoe, N. GA), but in my childhood and youth we deliberately left it growing along hedgerows and untended places for we had a definite use for it. We made brooms from it with which we swept our house. I can remember when we gathered it (cutting clumps just above the roots at the ground), we tied it into small bundles. We kids had the assignment of “beating out” the dried blooms so they wouldn’t scatter lint upon our floors as we swept them with our broomsage brooms. When the broom got worn down a bit, we then used it for sweeping our dirt yards. We didn’t grow grass in our yards then, but had a “clean-swept” yard with rose bushes, hydrangea bushes and other perennial flowers(as well as annuals) growing around the edges of the yard to make the yard more beautiful.
    Congratulations, Tipper, for six years of “Blind Pig & the Acorn”–your anniversary of beginning this blog, February, 2008!

  • Reply
    Bob Aufdemberge
    February 19, 2014 at 8:01 am

    No actual broomsedge, but we do have bluestem which looks very similar.

  • Reply
    Miss Cindy
    February 19, 2014 at 7:52 am

    I didn’t know those fields were broomsedge, I thought it was just uncut grass grown tall. I thought broomsedge grew in the west.
    Wonder if they used to make brooms from thus giving it the name broomsedge.
    Yes it has a beauty all it’s own.

  • Reply
    Ed Ammons
    February 19, 2014 at 7:42 am

    We used to make kites out of broomsage, newspaper and tied together string from the tops of feed sacks.
    Yeah, plenty of broomsage in my upper yard. Its the only thing sticking up through the snow. It just stands there and waves at stray leaves that skate by.

  • Reply
    Sheryl Paul
    February 19, 2014 at 7:37 am

    Yes, it grows here in Florida, there are a few places to see a field of it blowing left. There has been a reemergence of it here too along with a plant we called cockscomb when children. Right after a fire blew through near our home both plants showed up.

  • Reply
    Jim Casada
    February 19, 2014 at 7:30 am

    Tipper–Broom sedge is indeed an inhabitant of worn-out land, and it especially thrives on highly acidic soils. Also, along with dewberries, it is one of the first plants to appear on pieces of ground which have been scraped bare or have eroded.
    I don’t know that it is good for much of anything, other than slowing erosion and being a favored bedding place for cottontails on sunny winter days, but hillsides covered with it gave me many a fine day of fun as a boy. In late fall and winter dry broom sedge is slick as a mole’s rear end, and it will give you about as good a ride as a snow-laden slope. Our sleds were big pieces of cardboard. You couldn’t do much in the way of guiding them, but my would they fly. I wonder if any of your other readers did similar “sedge sledding?”
    Jim Casada
    http://www.jimcasadaoutdoors.com
    Jim C

  • Reply
    TimMc
    February 19, 2014 at 6:38 am

    We use to play in it as boys, it grew thick in pastures where I was raised, but I remember one time we were dove hunting and I walked across a field of young “sage-grass”it was still green, just about knee to waist high, and I got the worse case of chiggers I ever had in my life, they must have been having a family reunion and they all congregated on me, you couldn’t put you finger on one spot of my body I didn’t have a chigger, the next 2 weeks was pure ****, well, it was bad..

  • Reply
    kat
    February 19, 2014 at 6:17 am

    It’s not common around here. By looking at the pic you posted it appears to be a pretty site to see.

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