Scotch broom (Cytisus scoparius)—a pest for all seasons

Scotch Broom - the monster that ate Washington! I was gone for a few days and it's sweet little vicious flowers showed up in my flower bed. This Canadian article has some informative instruction on how to “deal” with this monster. Let's all do our part to outsmart this voracious predator.

This information was compiled in April 2011 by GaLTT member Rufus Churcher. He describes Scotch broom and its habitat, explains why GaLTT is advocating its island-wide eradication, and suggests the best methods for its removal.

What is Scotch broom and how did it get here?
Scotch broom is a plant of European origin, probably from Scotland. Linneaus (Carl von Linné) described it botanically as Cytisus scoparius—a member of a very successful temperate genus. The name ‘broom’ is said to derive from the tight bundle of twigs that makes a besom or whisk broom, but this origin is unsure.

Scotch broom is said to have been introduced to Vancouver Island from Hawaii in the 1850s by Capt. Walter Calhoun Grant who planted it on his farm near Sooke. It is also said to make good winter-feed for horses but I have never known it fed to horses either in Scotland, England or Canada. The use of its light foliage as fodder would be surprising as all parts are heavily alkaloidal and poisonous to many vertebrates, including humans, especially small children.

Habitats and local range
This invasive plant is common on highway shoulders, roadsides, abandoned logging trails, forest clearings and waste and open areas on Vancouver Island and smaller Gulf Islands, north to Campbell River, and it is still extending its range further north. It will seed in under second growth natural forest margins and fringes of canopy shadows of larger trees. Its seeds get included in the mud in the treads of tires, especially of heavy and off-road vehicles, and so is distributed throughout our highway network. Birds, when they consume the seeds, seldom can crack them all, and so carry fertile seeds far and wide. This accounts for the occurrences of ‘spot’ growths of broom in isolated roadsides, and in cleared forest areas such as the Weldwood Lands and 707-Acre Park.

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0 #3 Leilani 2011-06-20 12:10
Mike Wright wrote an article about Scotch Broom many years ago (please check with him), and I remember the fact that Scotch Broom is a "Nitrogen Fixer" which is needed in our climate because of all the rain washing away Nitrogen in the soil. So, it is not just an invasive bad plant; it is doing a needed job for the soil. Perhaps, if the soil was not nitrogen depleted, it would not thrive. Janet and I have always said that we have no allergies, and it's true, we have no reaction to Scotch Broom. We like it because it always gives golden blooms on Janet's birthday!

More dangerous is English Ivy. The East Coast of US is decimated by Ivy. I took a trip by bus through Pennsylvania in 2009, and I was shocked to see the woods and forests devastated. What acid rain didn't get, English Ivy choked to death! Threre were no woods, just stump trees choked with ivy and standing dead.
0 #2 Leilani 2011-06-20 12:07
I can see this in Washington, now, trees wrapped with Ivy everywhere. Check out the trees along the road out of Nisqually crossing the river going up the hill to I-5. These trees are being choked to death, suffocated, and the hillside will weaken as the trees and roots die. The Ivy taken off of one mature tree can weigh over 2,000 lbs! Hillsides and trees covered with Ivy are dangerous in wind, rain, and storms! Ivy is dominant on the forest floor and overtakes our native wood sorrell, salal, oregon grape, and ferns. Where our native plants are beneficial in the forests, English Ivy is entirely destructive, toxic, and a habitat for rodents. As Ivy climbs the trees along roadsides, we can predict what will happen. See links.

http://your.kingcounty.gov/dnrp/library/water-and-land/weeds/BMPs/english-ivy-control.pdf

http://extension.oregonstate.edu/gardening/node/948

Thanks for the Connection!
0 #1 C. 2011-06-20 09:34
Seems to me the more we fight something the stronger it gets. How about loving it away – “Speaking as the God that I am I command you to remove from my land – you are not welcome here.”
I have no scotch broom on my 2.5 acres, even though it is all around me.

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