Appalachia Wildflowers & Trees Of Appalachia

Broom Sage

broom sage in appalachia

Broom sage (Broomsedge) has made 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 here, many of those broom sage fields from Pap’s youth were destroyed. But in recent years broom sage has been making an appearance again.

Several fields of the swaying brown grass can be seen between my house and the folk school. I can even see a few clumps 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.

Here’s some comments from when I mentioned broom sage a few years back here on the Blind Pig and The Acorn:

Shirla: 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.

Ron Banks: 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.

Ken Roper: 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

Ed Ammons: 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.

TimMc: 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..

Jim Casada: 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?”

Tipper

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23 Comments

  • Reply
    Barbara Parker
    February 12, 2019 at 2:50 pm

    My cousin Louise told me about you and I love reading about the times past. Broom sage was used for brooms at my Grandmas house many years ago. Needless to say it’s good memories of those days. I used to sweep her floors and yards and the broom was exactly the right height for a 4 year old little girl trying to help her precious Grandma. I’ve noticed quite a bit of broom sage growing on the sides of the road in Cleveland GA and it always brings thoughts of Grandma and the good ole days. I sure did love my Grandma and Grandpa a lot.

    • Reply
      tipper
      February 12, 2019 at 7:16 pm

      Barbara-thank you for the comment! I hope you drop by the Blind Pig and The Acorn often 🙂

  • Reply
    Laura
    February 11, 2019 at 9:30 am

    I see more and more in our area. It is beautiful, but it definitely doesn’t make good forage for anything, either in the green form or as hay. I always go by a field of it and think, “That hay field will have to be limed 3 or 4 years to get rid of that stuff.” Haha!

  • Reply
    DonInKS
    February 11, 2019 at 9:28 am

    My grandma just called it sage grass. I don’t remember it being used for anything though. When I was a kid we’d use it for making play houses… make a frame from tree branches and then thatch it with bundles of sage grass. Unfortunately, my friend’s family milk cow always thought it was her bed and would knock it down and lay on it.

  • Reply
    Dolly
    January 21, 2017 at 8:21 am

    We don’t see much here like we used too. I remember as a child watching my grandma and great grandma making the brooms. I wish I’d paid more attention to them making them now because I don’t remember how they did it. They would gather up quite a lot and hold it tightly at the top in their hand until the got it large enough and then wind the twine in and around somehow.
    I’m glad you have broom sedge there now. It is beautiful to see growing like that.
    Do you all still make brooms there? If so would you demonstrate how please? Or do you have that on the blog somewhere. I’d love to know and heck have one of them. Do you know of someone that makes and sells them?
    Thank you for such great posts. I enjoy your blog very much, Paul Nelson shares it a lot!

  • Reply
    Rev. RB
    January 20, 2017 at 11:25 pm

    Interesting!!! I’ve never seen it growing, but I did see an older woman weaving a broom out of it on one of the tv channels a while back. It didn’t look that hard, and was very interesting to watch. I bet there are instructional videos somewhere on the web showing how to do it, maybe on Youtube. There are some beautiful brooms here:
    http://www.thebroombrothers.com/
    I wonder if it’s good for fodder for animals like cows, horses and such; if not, I bet it would be good for animal bedding. I have also read it has some medicinal purposes, though I don’t know what they are.
    God bless.
    RB
    <><

  • Reply
    Ed Ammons
    January 20, 2017 at 6:44 pm

    Everyone seems to think broomsage is caused by a shortage of lime. I don’t have any lime, do you think lemon might work instead?

  • Reply
    TimMc
    January 20, 2017 at 6:15 pm

    Broom-sage is pretty, but a curse on a live-stock farmer, it will choke out the good grass, I was always told it was a sign of an acidic soil and needed lime.. the danger in it is if your neighbor thumps his cigarette out at the mail box and catches his yard on fire and it spreads to your land.. We got a surprise one Sunday morning from a knock at our door, I went to answer it and this good Samaritan said, Sir your pasture is on fire, and sure enough it was and it was heading straight for our house, I ran and threw my Wife and Daughter in the van and made them leave, while the Caddo Fire Dept and myself and the Good Samaritan fought the fire to keep it from spreading to the house, fortunately the woods between the house and the field of sage had enough moisture under the leaves to slow it down…. I felt bad that I didn’t even catch his name but he stayed until it was under control. Needless to say that scared the ______ out of me..

  • Reply
    Ken
    January 20, 2017 at 10:46 am

    Tipper,
    I’m impressed with your lead-in talking about “pushing a road in”. And I love the picture of broomsage blowing in the wind. I remember laying in the broomsage looking up at the Sky and dreaming boyish things. Our fiest dogs had scoured the ground, making sure no snakes were around. How is wish I could go back and re-live those moments, didn’t have a worry in the world. …Ken

  • Reply
    SuzyJ
    January 20, 2017 at 10:11 am

    There are two fields just outside my window at work that are covered over with broom sedge. Looks like the rolling sea some afternoons when the wind picks up. I am blessed to have such a beautiful view at work.

  • Reply
    Ron Banks
    January 20, 2017 at 10:04 am

    Other than making brooms it was a great place to play as a child. I remember crawling through the straw with my BB gun as if I were stalking my enemy. I played war many times in fields like that. It was so much fun because you could hide so easily.

  • Reply
    George Pettie
    January 20, 2017 at 9:25 am

    In an ancient time, when I was a boy, mountain farmers burned off broom sedge from pastures in early spring. The ash was a poor substitute for unaffordable lime and fertilizer. The cattle didn’t care for broom sedge, but would eat the tender spring shoots. Once in a while the wind whipped up and the fire got away into forest underbrush and scorched a lot of trees.

  • Reply
    Larry Griffith
    January 20, 2017 at 9:08 am

    I loved riding cardboard on the broom sage. Didn’t mind climbing those hills then. It was a fun and fast ride. Dad always said the ground was wore out and needed lime.

  • Reply
    Larry Griffith
    January 20, 2017 at 9:08 am

    I loved riding cardboard on the broom sage. Didn’t mind climbing those hills then. It was a fun and fast ride. Dad always said the ground was wore out and needed lime.

  • Reply
    Larry Griffith
    January 20, 2017 at 9:08 am

    I loved riding cardboard on the broom sage. Didn’t mind climbing those hills then. It was a fun and fast ride. Dad always said the ground was wore out and needed lime.

  • Reply
    Larry Griffith
    January 20, 2017 at 9:08 am

    I loved riding cardboard on the broom sage. Didn’t mind climbing those hills then. It was a fun and fast ride. Dad always said the ground was wore out and needed lime.

  • Reply
    Janis Sullivan (Jan)
    January 20, 2017 at 9:08 am

    Oh, what a beautiful picture! What fun it must be to see and walk through. Jan

  • Reply
    Keith Jones
    January 20, 2017 at 8:56 am

    One thing you can do with broom sage is make brooms! We have a field that will grow lots of broom sage if left unmowed. When my Dad was living and still healthy, one day we were wading through the field (it looked about like your picture above.) He asked, “Do you remember Momma Jones’s brooms? (that was his mother) “Yes.” “Did I ever show you how to make one?” “No.” We walked back up to the house and got an ordinary dinner fork. We cut quite a bundle of broom sage, held it in one hand while “worrying out” the seeds with the fork by combing it through the stalks from the base toward the end. When we had most of the seed fluff out, he said, “Now you’re ready to wrap it.” Old brooms were wrapped with leather straps or long strips of rubber cut from old tire inner tubes, but we didn’t have either, so we used the other thing Momma Jones sometimes used, some heavy twine. Sometimes a stick would be inserted into the center of the broomsage bunch before wrapping, but for a ‘hand broom’ used to keep the bare yard swept, you didn’t bother with that. I still have the broom Dad and I made all those years ago, hanging on a peg outside our back door. Just this fall, I had to re-wrap the twine which had loosened, and I made a tightly-wrapped ‘handle’ out of butcher’s twine (for the red/white color.) Tipper, I’ll send you a picture of that broom sage broom in a separate email. Thanks!

  • Reply
    Jim Perry
    January 20, 2017 at 8:51 am

    We have a lot of it in the woods an trails on my farm, it’s good for wildlife to hide in, when I was a small boy my grandma would make brooms out of it by gathering it up in a bundle about 3 inches round an then wrapping tobacco twine around it to hold it together. She swept the floor in the house an the yard, the yard was sand as we lived in the Sandhills part of the state. We have planted wildlife plots in some areas an got the seed from the wildlife folks and I think it had some broom sage seed in it.

  • Reply
    Ron Stephens
    January 20, 2017 at 8:37 am

    So glad you call it broom sedge. I don’t hear that but rarely, yet it was the only name I knew it by until I was an adult. In the botany books it is called ‘bluestem’ and there are many kinds.
    There is one kind in particular that I wish I knew more about. It looks very different than the others. It has wide ‘leaves’ that have a smooth, shimmery, coppery, reddish-orange color on the inside. I think it could be really good in dried flower arrangements.
    I have also seen one that is a beautiful combination of blue-gray-green in summer. I am wanting to take it to the paint store and ask them if they can mix that color.
    Once when I was sick as a boy my Grandma made a tea for me that, along with one or two other ingredients, included broom sedge. I did not see it made but I think the broom sedge part was the roots. I do not recall either whether it worked.

  • Reply
    PinnacleCreek
    January 20, 2017 at 8:32 am

    As we grow we pick up information from those around us. We had a big field of this. and I was told it was due to poor soil. In the many years since, I have noticed not much of significance ever grew in that field. It is beautiful and was chosen a few times for a backdrop when we were trying to pose like movie stars lying in the tall grass. I certainly bet your pretty daughters could take an awesome picture sitting with their instruments in a field of broom sage. Nature provides us beauty even in poor soil.

  • Reply
    marshall
    January 20, 2017 at 8:30 am

    I have always heard that a field with broom-sedge needed lime.

  • Reply
    Gary Powell
    January 20, 2017 at 7:57 am

    I think broom sedge grows best on fields that are low on lime. Have about 5 acres that I can’t get in with a lime buggy. It has a good crop of broom sedge. I mow it late in the spring after the wildflowers have about stopped blooming. Must be good cover for cottontails. I see a redtail hawk almost every time I walk there.

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