With sunny May weather comes the blooming of Scotch broom in the Comox Valley. It also means that community groups like the Broombusters and Comox Valley Nature will be out cutting it down. If you have the time and energy please free to contact these groups and learn how you can help rid our community of this invasive plant. However if you wish to start at home let me offer a few suggestions for better results in removing this pernicious weed.
As in most endeavours timing is all important. This is summed up in the slogan “cut broom in bloom”. Most plants store their energy in the winter dormant season. With spring this energy is transferred upward to produce the growing shoots and flowers. By cutting it down now you are removing most of the energy from the plant and leaving a weakened root stalk. As a bonus you do not give the plant a chance to seed and spread.
In cutting the broom plant is important to cut as close to the ground and the root stalk as possible. Be ruthless in cutting it down as low as you can get. Leaving a branch or two near the ground allows the plant to survive and thrive in years to come. The importance of cutting the entire plant down to the root stalk can not be over emphasized. The broom plant can not regenerate from its root tissues, it needs a green branch. Cut it low and success is assured.
A common myth about broom is that the seeds it produces can live for up to 80 years in the soils. This made removing broom seem like an almost impossible endeavour. However this is in fact not the case and was based on a out-dated study where broom seeds were stored in a glass jar in a laboratory. This of course is nothing like the real life conditions where a seed is exposed to winter wet and summer drought. In fact in our climate 7 to 13 years will diminish all the seed stored in the ground. It still means one must be diligent for many years, however it is not mission impossible. A local example is the Courtenay River Airpark, which 20 years ago was a sea of yellow flowering broom. It is now very much controlled on that site.
Most of us know the story that broom was brought to South Vancouver Island in 1850 by Captain Grant who brought it here to remind him of his home in Scotland. However Scotch broom is not Scottish. It was introduced there as it was introduced here. It in fact originates in the Iberian peninsula of Europe.
A single broom plant can produce over 35,000 seeds in a season.
Comox Valley Nature fights broom and other invasive plants such as purple loosestrife and knotweed through our Wetland Restoration Project. This year we have received funding from Ducks Unlimited Canada, Comox Valley Regional District, City of Courtenay and the BC Nature Foundation.