Editorial: Eliminating the scourge (of broom)

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Results of an Invasive Plant Drop-off Day give an indication of what some islanders have been doing with coronavirus pandemic down time: they’ve been tackling a different type of scourge.

Salt Spring Island’s broom problem is glaringly visible at this time of year with the plants in full bloom. Numerous roadsides and other areas where earth has been disturbed are dominated by oceans of yellow and gold these days.

At least some of that foliage bit the dust, however, as people from all corners of the island brought heaps of mainly Scotch broom, as well as gorse, holly, blackberry and spurge laurel, to the Fulford Fire Hall parking lot on Saturday. More than twice as much material collected at any previous drop-off day was deposited by residents and firefighters on duty. Native Plant Stewardship Group volunteers collected data about the type of plants, volume and area of the island it came from. The material was then chipped and disposed of safely using the proceeds of generous donations.

The connection with the fire department is a natural one. Broom and gorse are highly flammable and having large swaths of the stuff growing throughout the island is a serious fire hazard. Removing broom from our properties and neighbourhoods is a tangible and immediate fire prevention measure we can all take.

Broom and other invasive species also crowd out native plants, thereby altering the natural ecosystem of an area. For those who question the efficacy of broom removal for restoring native habitat, a demonstration site on Long Harbour Road, identified by signage, proves it can make a significant difference.

For anyone who hasn’t yet had a chance to cut and/or collect broom, gorse and other invasive species in their neighbourhood, or who didn’t make it to the May 23 drop-off event, another one is coming up. It’s on Sunday, June 7 from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. at the Central Fire Hall parking lot.

Islanders have been cooperating in various ways during the pandemic. Working to control broom, gorse and other invasive species is another way we can do that.

1 Comment
  1. Jan Steinman says

    Want to get rid of Scotch Broom? It’s simple — quit making ideal habitat for it!

    Broom is a “pioneer species” that has become specialized for beginning a plant succession in disturbed areas. It is a nitrogen fixer, and so it enriches ground for other plants to become established, eventually resulting in a climax forest.

    It may well be “invasive,” but with our road cuts, open fields, and expansive lawns, we are simply inviting it in!

    Unfortunately, not many people are willing to give up roads and agriculture, so broom will continue to work toward making the land what it wants to be — a climax forest.

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