13 September 2023


Every amateur gardener is familiar with "volunteers" that appear unbidden and unplanted in the yard or garden.  The stalk above sprouted in an unused garden pot (it probably arrived via a stray birdseed kernel).   I thought it was common midwestern sweet corn until it tasseled and I recognized it as "broomcorn."
Sorghum or broomcorn is a genus of about 25 species of flowering plants in the grass family (Poaceae). Some of these species are grown as cereals for human consumption, in pastures for animals, and as bristles for brooms. One species is grown for grain, while many others are used as fodder plants, either cultivated in warm climates worldwide or naturalized in pasture lands... Most varieties are drought- and heat-tolerant, nitrogen-efficient, and are especially important in arid and semi-arid regions, where the grain is one of the staples for poor and rural people. These varieties form important components of forage in many tropical regions. S. bicolor is an important food crop in Africa, Central America, and South Asia, and is the fifth most important cereal crop grown in the world.
This plant will stay in the garden through the autumn and winter as a seed source for the granivores.  The stalks were traditionally used for broommaking.


  1. I have volunteer corn in my lawn - the squirrels bring back corn cobs from the corn fields down the street, and these are from the kernels that fell off the cobs. Next year, I plan to plant several rows of this field corn in my lawn, just for fun.

  2. I am of the opinion that natural bristle brooms are superior to the plastic crap brooms that are the *only* options now days. What is the point of using a plastic based bristle that, when used, generates static electricity and all of the stuff you are trying to get away just sticks to the broom. Now you have to shop vac the broom clean. Modern living.

  3. My volunteers this year are cherry tomatoes. I am a lazy composter, meaning I don't turn compost; I just start a new pile every year and harvest it two years later. Cherry tomatoes are ripening now in last year's pile, weeks after my real tomato garden played out.

    1. When we moved into our first home the sewer line was clogged. A plumber came out and broke into the line just outside the house to make the repair. The next spring tomatoes grew in the dirt he dug up. Wonder where those seeds came from ... :-)

  4. I recall my mother growing broom corn for that specific purpose when I was a child. I still have one of the whisks she made with it. IIRC there was a motley looking corn with purple curliness which was decorative, and another variety that we used specifically for pop-corn.

  5. Last year we had tremendous rains in the desert and for the first time sorghum grew close to the bird feeder, much to the delight of the birds. It just looks so much like corn, doesn’t it?

  6. Anon #2, you are absolutely correct, corn brooms blow the plastics out of the water.
    I buy them in Lancaster County, PA, Amish or Mennonite made, heavy, expensive, but clean like nothing else.


Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...