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Editorial: Broom busting season is upon us

It’s time for all of us to make sure our own properties and fencelines are broom-free
The yellow flowers of the broom plant are a familiar sight this time of year. (Mike Chouinard photo)

Normally when a newspaper article starts out with the phrase “It’s that time of year again” the subject matter is likely to be something about Christmas or back to school or the onset of hot weather.

But when we say here it’s that time of year again, we’re referring to the need to assess your Scotch broom situation.

Every spring it rears more and more of its ugly head and begins to flush with its signature yellow flowers. While visitors might exclaim over how pretty it is by the roadside — every roadside — in the Cowichan Valley, the truth is that it is an invasive scourge on the landscape, that even the florally inclined among us wish would disappear.

We were pleased to hear about the Youbou Community Association’s plans to collect a group of volunteers including the Lake Cowichan Trailblazers, the CVRD and Firesmart, to try to eradicate as much of it as possible from Bald Mountain.

As in so many places, it will need to be cut to the ground by hand (broom seems to be able to grow in every nook and cranny of the most inaccessible places) while it is in bloom to try to kill off the stubborn weed. Even then it will take more than one year to clear it out of an area, and vigilance will be necessary to make sure it stays gone. If it’s gone to seed before, those seeds can remain dormant for years, just waiting to sprout.

Why is the broom situation so dire? It’s a non-native species that spreads incredibly quickly and crowds out native plants wherever it goes. It prevents regrowth of forests, which is why it is such a problem where areas have been logged, and it is toxic to wildlife. It’s also highly flammable, providing a perfect fuel for summer wildfires to catch and spread.

It only takes a quick look around the Cowichan Valley (and much of the rest of the Island) to determine that we are not doing enough to keep this invader out of our backyards and under some semblance of control. We are to such a point now that complete eradication seems all but impossible.

So while volunteers look to large swathes of it, it’s time for all of us to make sure our own properties and fencelines are broom-free. If we all did that much it would go a long way towards curbing this unwelcome shrub, at least in our settled areas. Then we need to address how our highways department ignores the spread along our roadsides, and the Hydro rights-of-way provide easy corridors for its advance.