The sweeping change in the landscape around the end of winter in our region is the sight of the Broom Grass/Thysanolaena maxima. Particularly in the hilly areas of this part of the country, the inflorescences greet you. They seem to spring from everywhere: on the edge of roads, on river banks, and on entire hills. The photo above was taken on the roadside in the neighbouring state of Meghalaya. It was the month of February and the route that we took had the mist coming in from the valley below.
The Broom Grass belongs to the family Poaceae. It is found on hill slopes, damp steep banks along gorges, and on the sandy banks of rivers. It grows in tussocks. The culms rise centrifugally during the peak growing season which is April to July. The inflorescence reaches to a length of 30-90 cms resembles a foxtail and is used as a broom. Regeneration is through seeds which mature in February/March. Seed dispersal by wind can travel long distances because of the light weight. Germination is during the rainy season which can be as early as April in our part of the country. The fibrous roots keep erosion in check. Other uses of the grass is for fuel and also fodder.
A new broom sweeps clean but the old broom knows the corners.~ Irish saying.
There are quite a few sayings associated with brooms. One is that the broom must be treated with respect since it has such a big role in keeping the house clean. Also several used brooms must not be kept together in one place as this might lead to misunderstanding and quarrels within the household. But it’s all right to tie up new/unused brooms together and keep them in one place.;)
As we drove past small villages we saw entire households drying the cut grass on the roof and in the yard. Everyone seemed to be involved. The state is a major supplier of brooms in the country.
Although brooms made of coconut leaves and bamboo (above photo) are used, they are not meant for use inside the house. They are for sweeping the yard and outside areas like the drains. To make the broom the stiff midribs are used after stripping away the coconut leaves. What remains is a long thin, bamboo-like stick. These sticks are then tied together.
A plant that grows wild in the jungles and on waysides. In the month of September, these plants are full of small yellow blooms…the dried twigs are bunched up together (photo below) and used to sweep the compound. Very rough but it keeps the backyard clear of falling leaves and twigs.