Sunday, May 19, 2024
May 19, 2024

Broom-removal tips offered by stewardship group

By JANE PETCH

Special to the Driftwood

Earth Day is our reminder to be aware of and to marvel at the remarkable natural environment that surrounds us.

It is also a reminder to think about ways we can support or repair our natural world.

For over 12 years, islanders have been engaged in removing Scotch broom from roadsides and properties. A non-native invasive shrub, broom (cytisus scoparius) out-competes native plants, toxifies the soil and spreads without limits in sunny, dry locations. It is also an extreme fire hazard.

Spring, with the CUT BROOM IN BLOOM signs going up along the roadways, is an ideal time to cut broom. Salt Spring’s Native Plant Stewardship Group has been asked to review steps for removing broom effectively. Here are some questions we are often asked.

Why should I cut broom plants, and not pull them?

The best advice is: don’t pull broom plants. Cut them. Pulling disturbs the broom seeds in the soil. The minute the seeds are exposed to light they will sprout. One plant can produce thousands of seeds which can last up to 30 years. But you can pull small plants with stems thinner than pencils.

How do I make sure the broom does not come back:?

Cut the stems as close to the ground as you can, even below the soil level if possible. If you leave part of the stem showing, it will resprout. Broom stems are photosynthetic. For a great video about removing broom, go to broombusters.org.

Can I cut broom any time?

Yes, you can cut broom any time. But cutting in the spring when the plant is in bloom and has no seeds makes it safer to transport without spreading the seeds. Also, spring cutting when the plant puts all its energies into producing blooms, means the plant doesn’t have the resources to survive the summer drought.

Can broom spread by runners?

No, broom is a member of the pea family and spreads by seeds.

How do I dispose of the broom I cut?

The stewardship group organizes annual drop-offs for non-native invasive plants. This year, the drop-offs are on Saturday, May 13, and Sunday, June 4, from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. We may be able to add one more in later May. Dates and times will be posted in local media.

Drop-offs are by donation. Plants are either chipped or recycled. Supporters of these events include the Salt Spring fire department, Transition Salt Spring, the Salt Spring Island Conservancy and the CRD.

You can drop off broom, blackberry, spurge laurel, gorse, ivy, holly and other woody non-native invasives. To save the chipper blades, please remove any dirt or stones dirt from the roots. Giant hogweed is too toxic to accept.

Can I really get rid of broom permanently?

There are great success stories all over the island. Check out broombusters.org for Qualicum’s success. The broom removal site on Long Harbour Road demonstrates how little effort is required to monitor a hillside that was once choked with broom. And the native plants thank everyone who takes on their own small patch and keeps it broom-free!

Call 250-537-0880 to volunteer or for more details.

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