City encouraged to keep up the fight against Scotch broom

The bright yellow flowers can be found growing in clusters all along the Inland Island Highway and in vacant lots

Scotch broom is an epidemic that Campbell Riverites need to fight back against, says the head of a society dedicated to eradicating the controversial plant.

“It’s an alien, invasive species (that) doesn’t belong here,” said Joanne Sales of Broombusters Invasive Plant Species in a delegation to city council last week. “It crowds out native species until that’s all you have. If we don’t get control over it, it will fill open spaces.”

Sales said Scotch broom was first introduced on Vancouver Island in 1850 when travellers from Europe brought the plant to Sooke.

The invasive species, which spreads like wildfire, has made its way north ever since. It blooms from the end of April to the beginning of June and slows and prevents forest re-growth.

The bright yellow flowers, which don’t appear harmful, can be found growing in clusters all along the Inland Island Highway and in vacant lots around Campbell River – most notably in the properties around Wal-Mart, the Home Deport and the Quinsam Hotel.

Sales said it’s important the community work to eliminate the plant.

“If we want our farms, if we want our forests, if we want our parks, it’s us that’s going to have to protect them,” Sales said. “We just afford to lose this battle. When it gets into a clear-cut area it grows faster than the trees and it takes over.”

Sales, who helped start Broombusters in the Qualicum Beach area, said through community efforts Qualicum is now nearly Scotch broom-free.

She was in Campbell River last week to help spread her message and encourage the city to create a similar model. Sales said all it takes is a community co-ordinator and spokesperson to get started.

“We cut broom in bloom,” Sales said. “If you cut Scotch broom when it’s blooming it actually dies – all you have to do is cut it down to grade level.

“If you cut it in the winter it’s going to come back.

“Our goal is to get rid of broom so the best thing is to get people to cut broom in their areas, in their communities.”

But Campbell River hasn’t sat idly by.

For the last 13 years the local environmental non-profit Greenways Land Trust has battled the weed through its annual Broom Bash.

This year the event took place at the Myrt Thompson Trail in the Campbell River estuary.

Coun. Ron Kerr, who has a background in landscaping, said Scotch broom can be overwhelming and commended Greenways for the work it does.

“I know in the community Greenways does an awful lot of good work with invasive species,” said Kerr while at the same time welcoming Sales’ approach with Broombusters. “I like this model because it’s focused specifically on Scotch broom, it doesn’t get distracted.”

Kerr noted the Campbell River Indian Band, along with the city, recently removed “a great portion” or broom from the 9.5 acres around the Home Depot, and along Highway 19A.

“It does a great deal for the community because I think broom sends a message of neglect,” he said.

Scotch broom is also highly flammable, a tripping hazard for hikers, bikers, and livestock, and it’s toxic – grazing animals cannot eat it. It’s pollen can also make people sick.

It spreads rapidly on trails, forest roads, and under power lines.

“It takes over any disturbed land, as well as farms, vacant lots, estuaries, wetlands, parks, clear-cuts, fields and green spaces,” Sales said. “Broom has a detrimental economic impact on farming, forest, and tourist industries.

“This is one environmental issue everyone can take part in,” said Sales. “We’d like to invite Campbell River to join with us.”

To contact Broombusters, call 1 (250) 752-4816 or e-mail info@broombusters.org

Visit the Broombusters website, www.broombusters.org for more information.