The broom tree is a desert shrub that grew across Arabia and throughout the Judean wilderness. Its deep roots draw in the moisture of land that is otherwise barren.

The main broom species was the white broom (Retama raetam) and it is referred to a number of times in the Old Testament. It is one of the trees in the desert areas that provide respite from the sun. Its roots burn to give a hot fire and produce high quality charcoal (Job 30:4)

In the Midstocket garden, the broom bush is a Retama raetam/Spartium junceum, (sometimes called the Spanish broom), a species of flowering plant in the family Fabacea that is capable of surviving in the North East climate. Its flowers are yellow.

There are two stories in the Bible that refer to the broom bush. The first story refers to Elijah in I Kings 19, and some translations state that “he came to a broom tree (Rottem) and sat under it”. Although more of a bush than a tree, it was important for shade to travellers.

The second story is the reference in Genesis 21:15 to Hagar and Ishmael while they were wandering in the desert “And the water was finished, and she cast the child under one of the shrubs”.

Both these stories relate to hot desert conditions where shade is a necessity. The message is that when you come to a desert moment in life, as Hagar and Elijah did, and the heat is excruciating and you think you won’t be able to take another step, God is there to provide you with a little shade to get you by.

The world we all live in is one of intense heat, but around the bend is a broom tree, where we can get a little shade and a little rest - to be able to keep going on life’s journey.