No, it’s not dangerously toxic like giant hogweed is. But that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t make more effort to get rid of it.
Scotch broom is a scourge in Sooke, across Vancouver Island. Those who don’t know any better might tell you it’s pretty, with its bright yellow flowers standing out from roadsides, fields and anywhere else it has taken a pernicious hold – which is to say, anywhere that people haven’t been vigilant in keeping it out.
The thing about broom is that it spreads like wildfire and can be a problem in encouraging wildfires.
Each broom plant produces about 18,000 seeds, which explode from their pods as they dry and spread far and wide. The seeds can survive for years in the soil, and likely everyone reading this has likely seen the inhospitable places where broom can take hold. Rocky mountainsides, bogs, the gravel side of the road – nothing seems to deter them.
These plants crowd out native species as they spread, threatening our natural biodiversity. They are also highly flammable in summer, when the fire risk is highest.
It probably seems to many a futile endeavour to try to rid ourselves of broom. But not so, says the Broombusters Invasive Plant Society. It can be stopped and has been in some areas.
We can all help out. Even if you work to keep broom off your property and away from your fence line, that’s a big help – thousands of seeds that won’t be spreading. The way to do it is to cut the broom off at the base when it starts to flower in the next few months. And if you’d like to do a little more, you can tackle it in public places where it is spreading in your community.
Perhaps it’s time for our municipalities to follow Nanaimo, Parksville, Qualicum Beach and Campbell River and consider bylaws to help fight this noxious invader.