Editorial: Time to get serious about broom busting

Scotch broom is a scourge here in the Cowichan Valley

Broombusters are hoping to avoid a scenario such as this 2017 New Zealand roadside. (submitted photo)

Broombusters are hoping to avoid a scenario such as this 2017 New Zealand roadside. (submitted photo)

No, it’s not dangerously toxic like giant hogweed is. But that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t make more of an effort to get rid of it.

Scotch broom is a scourge here in the Cowichan Valley, as it is 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 is spreads like wildfire, and can be a problem in encouraging wildfires as well. Each broom plant produces about 18,000 seeds which explode from their pods as they dry and spread far and wide. So you can see how you can start with just one plant and end up with the epidemic we have now in short order. The seeds can survive for years in the soil, and I’m sure everyone reading this has likely seen the inhospitable places that 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, just when we don’t need it when the fire risk is highest.

To many it probably seems like a futile endeavour to try to rid ourselves of broom. But not so, says the Broombusters Invasive Plant Society, which has taken up the fight. It can be stopped and has been in some areas. Wouldn’t you like Cowichan to be one of them?

We can all help out. Even if you just work to keep the broom off your own property and away from your fenceline 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. The Broombusters will welcome your efforts, as will all of the other people in the Cowichan Valley.

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 as well.

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