Council urged to help eradicate Scotch broom

It’s invasive, tenacious and fast growing.

It’s invasive, tenacious and fast growing. Those are just a few of the pejoratives used to describe Scotch broom by Broombusters Invasive Plant Society founder and director Joanne Sales in a presentation to Ladysmith Council Monday, April 4.

“We just wanted to come and tell Ladysmith what’s going on,” Sales said during her presentation, describing broom as an ‘alien invasive’ species that aggressively establishes itself in any deforested lands or disturbed fields.

“It’s a really bad plant,” she said, listing a litany of traits that she believes should make broom public enemy number one in terms of the types of unwanted flora in B.C.

She said broom:

• Changes the toxicity in the soil where it establishes itself, making the land  ‘useless’;

Constitutes a serious fire hazard, making wildfires harder to predict and control because of the oils contained in its branches;

• Crowds out native species because of its rapid, prolific growth;

• Is poisonous, and hence cannot be browsed by deer or other herbivores.

Sales said broom plants produce up to 18,000 seeds which can lie dormant in the soil for up to 40 years.

“We’re the only ones who can stop it,” she said, pointing out that a visitor once told her there’s more Scotch broom on Vancouver Island than there is in Scotland, because there are no natural checks on the species here.

The tenacity of Scotch broom doesn’t mean it can’t be eradicated, however, Sales said.

Since 2006, when Broombusters began its work in the Qualicim area, broom there has been 97 per cent eradicated, Sales said, urging Ladysmith to support the same kind of initiative here.

Steps council could take to encourage local volunteers include:

• Broom removal, having civic workers pick up and dispose of piles of broom that have been cleared by volunteers;

• Signage about the importance of eradicating broom;

• Public statements and communications;

• Bylaws about the need to remove harmful, invasive species.

“We just want to make sure that we leave the Island in as close to natural condition as we inherited it,” Sales said.

The most effective way to clear mature broom is to cut it down, without disturbing the soil where it has rooted.

The Broombusters web site at broombusters.org recommends cutting broom plants down in the spring, from April to early June, before the flowers turn into seeds.

“Cut all the way to the ground, or just below the ground,” the site recommends. “Pull out young ones.”

Mayor Aaron Stone asked if there is any policy with regard to the eradication of Scotch broom in Ladysmith. Staff replied that there is no policy or program in place.

On a motion from Coun. Rob Hutchins council instructed staff to work with the Broombusters on plans for encouraging the removal of broom within Ladysmith.