Botanical name: Cytisus proliferus
Common names: tagasaste, tree lucerne
Origin: Canary Islands
Description: a fast growing, deep rooted, evergreen leguminous shrub or small tree with prolific white flowers in late winter and early spring.
- high protein leaves and twigs relished by stock, both mammals and poultry
- seeds relished by poultry
- nurse plant for protecting other trees
- hedge or windbreak plantings
- soil improvement, particularly through the addition of nitrogen via symbiotic bacteria in the roots
- branches make an excellent coarse mulch in orchard areas
- flowers are popular with bees and native nectar-eating birds
- older wood makes good firewood.
Tagasaste is a particularly useful permaculture plant due to its utility, hardiness, fast growth and ability to be cut regularly.
It is suited to temperate climates and is hardy to both drought and frost. It does not like water around its roots and is thus hard to grow in heavy clay soils or high rainfall areas without good drainage.
It survives well with little water or care, but will grow more quickly and produce more leaf matter if mulched and given some water in the driest months.
Stock will enjoy the bark as well as the leaves so it is best to bring the fodder to them rather than give them access to the plants directly; ensure that tagasaste is fed as part of a balanced diet – too much can cause metabolic problems.
In the right circumstances it can self-seed and spread prolifically; be aware that it is regarded as a weed in some areas.
From seed: germination is improved by scarification with boiling water. Seeds planted into pots can be transplanted into the ground, but transplanting self-seeded plants generally has a low success rate. Young seedlings can be vulnerable to frost as well as slugs and snails.