Sunday, January 13, 2008

Le Genêt

This flowering shrub is the bane of many an allergy sufferer. Le genêt, or Scotch Broom, is plentiful in Provence. It also abounds on the Atlantic coast of France and in Spain.

Somewhere in Provence, plenty of genêt.

There are even a few places around us in the Touraine where some genêt grows. It's pretty, but if you suffer from allergies you probably don't think so.

A close-up of Scotch Broom.

According to legend, Geoffroy V, count of Anjou and Maine (1113-1128-1151*) was out riding his horse near le Mans one day and came upon a unicorn with the head of a woman in a field of blooming genêt. He was so moved by this vision that he ordered that scotch broom be planted all around his lands. This is the origin of the name of his successors: Plante à genêt, Plantagenet.

The most famous of the Plantagenets was, of course, Henry II, king of England (1133-1151-1189). Henry II was fond of the Château de Chinon here in the Loire Valley and spent a lot of his time there. He and his wife, Eleanor of Aquitaine, are buried in nearby Fontevraud, as is their famous son, Richard Cœur de Lion (Richard the Lionhearted, 1157-1189-1199).

Another of their sons, Jean sans Terre (John Lackland, 1156-1199-1216), took the court back to England when he became king and subsequently lost the lands in Normandy, Anjou, Poitou, and the Maine to the French.

*The dates denote: birth-ascension to the throne-death.


  1. Interesting bits of medieval history, my favourite period. Sent me back to "The Plantagenet Chronicles" written by a monk in the 13th century. A (12x9) beautifully illustrated book, a long-ago gift, which I read and forgot. This time, I will look at your "châteaux" to complete the picture. Thank you!

  2. Scotch broom is the scourge of the Oakland Hills (across the bay from San Francisco). Although it looks lovely when it blooms in early spring, it spreads like a weed and chokes out native plants. We've been working to eradicate it our area for the last 20 years and have been largely successful, so I cringe every time I pass a nursery that sells it.

  3. Those flowers make me long for spring!


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