Margaret Driscoll from Community Services volunteering to pull some scotch broom during Broom Bash 2018. (Submitted)

The drive to sweep away scotch broom

Nasty weed is bad for the ecosystem and soil

Ruth Fraser wasn’t intending to become an invasive species opponent until she noticed just how weedy the five km trail around the village had become. As a runner, she saw that the scotch broom was expanding exponentially. Due to a back injury, the running turned into walking, then the walking turned into weeding.

“The Hwy 6 bypass [east of the Esso station] is minus a stack of scotch broom thanks to the hard work of some community-minded citizens. On May 29, Leslie Leitch’s Grade 7 class began the assault on this invasive weed. Volunteers from the community followed up the following day,” Ruth stated. It wasn’t all work, Fraser says the volunteers also had fun while ridding sections of this yellow-flowered shrub.

Scotch broom is noxious and highly invasive. According to www.bcinvasives.ca, “scotch broom is an evergreen shrub with bright yellow, pea-like flowers that may have red markings in the middle. Scotch broom grows to 1-3 metres in height at maturity.”

It is believed to have been brought to the area by early homesteaders and was used historically to make brooms in Scotland. In its own native habitat, it fits into an ecosystem where the soil, bacteria, fungi, predators and neighbouring plants can keep it in check. When it doesn’t belong, it changes the pH level of the soil, making it impossible for local plants to compete. Add to that it is a well-known allergen; its pollen makes many sick in the spring.

“Impacts of invasive species are the second greatest threat to biodiversity at they outcompete native plants and animals which impacts biodiversity. Human sprawl is the first,” explained Jennifer Vogel, Executive Director at Central Kootenay Invasive Species Society [CKISS.]

CKISS deals with invasive species throughout the Kootenays and says that scotch broom is one of the plants that is a little easier to deal with in that it can be cut down. The best way to remove it is using a special tool called an extractigator. It acts as a large lever and clamps the plant at the root to pull it out.

Vogel said, “Most people don’t own extractigators so what we recommend is that you pull soil away from the stalk of the plant to about an inch or two down and take a saw or a pair of loppers and cut the stalk below the ground. Then cover the stalk with a black plastic bag, cover it all up with dirt and then a couple of rocks. That plant should then die and not resprout.”

To get rid of the ones that have been cut down, it can be taken to landfull or burned. CKISS does not recommend chipping it or leaving it onsite because it excudes a toxic tar that will kill other plants around it and the seeds are viable for up to 80 years. It is not recommended to chip or mulch it. Seedlings can easily be removed in spring, and putting down a native grass seed or reclamation mix. Nakusp and the north shore of Kootenay Lake have the largest infestations, however if it is spotted outside of Nakusp it may be reported via the CKISS website at www.ckiss.ca.

Fraser wanted to express thanks to the team from CKISS for providing equipment, expertise and encouragement. She was encouraged by the community support and feels that the cause has gained some traction for future involvement in the effort to stay on top of the spread.

 

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