Charles Day is Wave Hill’s Ruth Rea Howell Horticultural Interpreter.
There are no prizes for how this huge annual grass acquired its common name. The bundled feathery tops (seed heads) make excellent brooms and have been used as such for centuries.
Although assumed to have originated in Africa, botanists have never found this plant in the wild. The parent species, Sorghum bicolor, is one of several types of millet, an important grain crop in the tropics and this natural variation must have been noticed by farmers many years ago and cultivated ever since.
Growing from seed to a height of eight feet or more in a few months, broom corn makes an impressive display by late summer. The Monocot Garden is graced by its towering presence this year and the ripening seeds will soon attract the attention of our local birdlife.