Good lord! You bought that thing on purpose?!

-Yup, I did. I bought it.

What is it? Some sort of deformed ugly boxwood? You bought a boxwood??? Ewwww. You are dead to me.

-Well, actually no. Look closer. See the spiny leaves? They actually gave me a rash when I planted it this afternoon.

That’s…a…good thing?

-Well, it does mean that the deer won’t like to eat it. Plus, it has other great features too. It is a broadleaf evergreen that likes dry shade. I mean deep, dark, dry shade that is so dark that it puts the black forest to shame and so dry that the Atacama Desert seems like a lush tropical paradise by comparison… I exaggerate a little, but look I planted it in a place so dark that the camera didn’t even have enough light to focus properly.

It looks fake and plasticy. So, what is it?

-It’s a butcher’s broom. Ruscus aculeatus ‘Wheeler’s Variety’ to be exact. The really cool thing about this plant is that all these leaves…

-…aren’t really leaves. They are modified stems called cladodes. And see those little brown nubbins on the back side of the cladodes?

-Those are flower buds that will bloom and eventually develop into red berries (seen here at Dancing Oaks Nursery). You may recall that I showed another Ruscus with flowers a few weeks ago.

Ok, I have to admit, that is pretty cool. So it is deer resistant and tolerant of dry shade? Sign me up!

The stats

  • Slow growing broadleaf evergreen from northern Africa, western Asia, and Europe.
  • Zone 7-9.
  • Asparagus family (Asparagaceae)
  • Takes dense shade.
  • Drought tolerant.
  • Deer resistant.


Ok, the old spiny growth may be deer resistant, but not the succulent new growth!

New growth of butchers broom nibbled by deer.

I was quite lucky to find this rather large plant in a 5 gallon pot size at Dancing Oaks Nursery a few weeks ago. This one is about 18 inches tall and has many stems. Normally, it takes years to get to this size. I planted a little 2 inch band pot with 2 little sprigs about 4 inches tall in 2014. It is 10% the size of this plant….

My advice is to get a bigger plant like this 5 gallon one while you can!