Butcher's-broom; a curious name for a curious plant! Butcher's-broom (Ruscus aculeatus) is an evergreen plant of dry woodland areas in southern England and is not uncommon in the woodlands of Dorset. It loves shade, is slow growing and is considered to be an indicator of ancient woodlands.
What appear to be its leaves are actually flat stems, the plant has no leaves. These flattened stems are quite tough and have a very prickly end to them which gives it another name used in some parts - knee holly. This plant is, amazingly, a member of the lily family. The flowers appear in the centre of the flattened stems from January until April and are tiny, very difficult to see without a hand lens; indeed, I have never seen the flowers at all! The flowers turn in to these lovely red berries, much, much larger than the flowers themselves, and they can be seen from October right through until the following May.
The plant contains beneficial chemicals that help support leg vein health and you can buy capsules made from butcher's-broom to relieve itching, tingling and cramp in leg muscles. The roots can also be used to make a pleasant tasting tea that has, supposedly, the same health benefits as well as helping relieve haemorrhoids and gallstones!
Because of its tough, spiny stems it was apparently used by butchers to sweep the floors of their shops, hence the name, butcher's-broom.