The sun is shining, the days are getting warmer and the hills around the Alberni Valley are blooming—but not all of that new growth is good for the Valley, according to Broombusters director Joanne Sales.
“Scotch broom is an alien invasive plant that was brought here around 1850 and has been spreading across the Island,” said Sales.
“It’s very, very hardy, very aggressive, spreads very densely and totally crowds out the native plants.”
It’s not any good for agriculture or animals, either.
“It’s toxic to the soil, wildlife can’t graze on it. When the broom takes over then all you’re going to have there is rats and feral cats. You’re destroying the native plants and the native animals’ habitat.”
Broom does shelter some animals—just generally not good ones.
“It’s a danger because cougars can hide in there. It’s not a safe kind of forest.”
With hot summers and high fire hazard ratings, broom is also dangerous.
“It’s an extreme fire hazard, it has high oil content and so it’ll cover a field and it just flares up like kerosene,” said Sales, adding that the Coastal Fire Service has decreed it a wildfire risk.
“They said that broom made controlling fires more difficult.”
Port Alberni fire Chief Tim Pley agrees.
“Broom presents a volatile fuel source and can cause rapid fire growth,” said Pley.
“When coupled with the slope of the land, broom can contribute to fires that spread rapidly and put other fuels at risk.”
But while it spreads quickly—a single plant can produce 20,000 seeds that can live for up to 40 years—it’s also possible to fight the spread of it.
“The plant is pretty easy to kill—just cut broom in bloom and it dies,” Sales said.
There’s a right and wrong way to do it, she added.
“If you pull it out, then the seeds are going to sprout and you don’t get rid of it.”
Having the right equipment is important, as is cutting it at the right time—usually from the end of April to the end of May.
“Use long-handled loppers. If you cut it all the way down at ground level, it will die because following that is the summer’s dry heat. If you cut it in the fall or in the rainy season it’s probably going to come back.”
Anyone looking for more information on how to get involved with broom busting can e-mail Sales at email@example.com or visit www.broombusters.org.
The first broom bust of 2016 in the Alberni Valley will take place on Saturday, April 23 from 9 a.m. to noon at the hill by West Coast General Hospital.
For more information, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org or find the event on Facebook.