Of late I have become an enemy of Scotch Broom…a broom basher, broom beater. What has Cytisus scoparius done to earn my belligerence? On Vancouver Island it has established itself as an invasive species, displacing and smothering native vegetation. Introduced in the mid nineteenth century, an initial three seeds (so the story goes) resulted in a vigorous plant without natural enemies rapidly spreading over all the south of the island, and onto the mainland.
At first its yellow blooms and benefits to soil stability and nitrogen content meant that it was often planted alongside roads and as a decorative shrub. Soon however it began to be recognized as a nuisance. Each plant produces thousands of seeds that spread widely and remain viable for decades. Local authorities lack the resources to tackle a problem that demands efforts spread over years. Mowing simply creates a carpet of low-spreading plants, and for herb iciness to work they have to be applied to each individual plant, rather thanks simply spraying the area. So removing Broom and other invasive plants has mostly become a volunteer activity.
I learned of the threats to Vancouver Island’s ever-shrinking natural habitats from Scotch Broom, Himalayan Blackberry and Daphne (Spurge Laurel) when I signed up as a volunteer with Greater Victoria Green Team and View Royal Parks Habitat Restoration Team, and most recently CRD Regional Parks Volunteers.. Having since wrestled with a bunch of blackberry thickets and tugged many a Broom seedling from the soil I now can’t go for a hike without wincing whenever I come across these plants, and despite being a peaceable kind of chap, my fingers itch to attack them.
I have learned the hard way that pulling Broom seedlings with (gloved) hands is hard on the fingers. So I’ve adopted the pliers method borrowed from Marg and Simon of the View Royal team. One grips the seedling with a good pair of pliers and pulls directly upwards, and with any luck the tough seedling will come out along with all its roots.
In England I helped to restore canals with the Waterway Recovery Group. However there are no canals on Vancouver Island, and only a few diverted rivers in British Columbia, so I had to seek a meaningful alternative to absorb my spare energies. It looks as though habitat restoration is going to fill that gap.