A group of volunteers clears Scotch broom outside of the Alberni Valley Chamber of Commerce and Visitor Centre. This picture was taken in 2018, prior to COVID-19. (SUBMITTED PHOTO)

A group of volunteers clears Scotch broom outside of the Alberni Valley Chamber of Commerce and Visitor Centre. This picture was taken in 2018, prior to COVID-19. (SUBMITTED PHOTO)

Broombusting season arrives across Vancouver Island

Invasive Scotch broom has spread rapidly and densely but volunteers are fighting back

At the end of April and beginning of May, shrubs with bright yellow flowers can be spotted blooming along the sides of the roads all over Vancouver Island.

Although these flowers may be pretty, they signify the presence of one of the most invasive weeds in the Pacific Northwest: Scotch broom.

Each year, a team of volunteers—known as Broombusters—works to combat the problem of Scotch broom on Vancouver Island. In 2020, 401 volunteers cut broom for more than 5,000 hours on East Vancouver Island and Powell River. Joanne Sales, Broombusters director, says this is an “impressive” number, considering the impact of the novel coronavirus pandemic.

“Because of COVID-19, we are not having publicized community cuts like we did before 2020,” said Sales. “But we do choose areas where we want to cut, and volunteers might show up at the same time, keeping social distancing.”

RELATED: Why Scotch broom makes a great road trip companion

RELATED: Pandemic partially handcuffing Island broom busting operations

Scotch broom was introduced to Vancouver Island in the mid-1800s as an ornamental plant. Since then, broom has spread rapidly and densely across the Island, taking over disturbed soil along roads and railways. Broom is a highly invasive weed that crowds out native plants. It is toxic to most animals, and the plant’s caustic oil content makes it highly flammable.

Sales says that the best time to cut Scotch broom is when the yellow flowers are in bloom.

“The energy of the plant is above the ground, which makes it more likely to die when cut,” explained Sales. “If you take out the roots and disturb the soil, seeds will sprout.”

Broombusters was first formed as a grassroots organization in 2006 in response to growing concerns about Scotch broom in Qualicum Beach and Coombs. Over the years, the movement has spread across the Island.

Sue Thomas, one of the Port Alberni organizers, has been involved in Broombusters for about five years. When Thomas first moved into her home in the Alberni Valley, the broom in her yard was more than 16 feet high.

“These are not just pretty little flowers,” she warned. “We mostly concentrate on roadways and visible areas that people can see,” said Thomas. “We’re really trying to get organized as a group and become more visible. We want to help as many people as possible. The more it gets out of hand, the worse it’s going to be [to cut].”

Juliana McCaig and her husband have been working on the Faber Road area near Sproat Lake for the past four years.

“We’ve had a few friends who have joined us over the years,” she said. “Each year it gets easier.”

Although the Alberni Valley Landfill allows volunteers to drop off the cut broom for free, the Alberni-Clayoquot Regional District does not have a pick-up program—which means volunteers have to pick up the cut broom and transport it to the landfill themselves.

Sales encourages people who want to cut broom to reach out to Broombusters before they begin cutting so that pick-up of the broom can be arranged. Cut broom left on the side of the road can become a major fire hazard, said Sales. Broombusters will provide loppers and vests, but volunteers are asked to bring their own gloves.

“Everyone is welcome, but anyone interested should get in touch with Broombusters first, before cutting broom,” said Sales. “We want to meet and train any new volunteers. Everyone should watch the videos on our website about how to cut broom effectively.”

Cutting properly is the key to stopping the broom from coming back, said McCaig.

“Do your own yard, and if your neighbour will let you, do their yard as well,” said McCaig. “You start little and keep expanding, and after a few years you can see the results.”

For more information about broom busting, or to find out how to volunteer, visit www.broombusters.org.

For more news from Vancouver Island and beyond delivered daily into your inbox, please click here.



elena.rardon@albernivalleynews.com

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter

PORT ALBERNI

Just Posted

The City of Nanaimo has developed concepts for an extension of the Harbourfront Walkway from Departure Bay ferry terminal to Departure Bay Beach. (City of Nanaimo image)
LETTER TO THE EDITOR: City hasn’t shown it has capability to build walkway

Is it really a good idea to consider a hyper-expensive, complicated mega-project, asks letter writer

Regional District of Nanaimo directors discussed asking the provincial government for increased funding, awareness and enforcement against human trafficking. (File photo)
Regional District of Nanaimo asking province to better address human trafficking issue

Directors agree to write to the premier and solicitor-general after hearing from advocate

Conductor Willi Zwozdesky and pianist Nico Rhodes led 66 local vocalists in song for the Nanaimo Sings video project Keeping Calm and Singing On. (YouTube screen shot)
Nanaimo Sings virtual performance features 66 vocalists

Fifth Nanaimo Sings festival was to have taken place this year

The bow-legged bear was seen roaming 2nd Avenue on Friday, May 7 and again in Brown Drive Park on May 13. (Submitted photo)
Bow-legged Ladysmith bear euthanized after vet examination

CO Stuart Bates said the bear had obvious health issues

Queen Elizabeth II and Clive Holland, deputy commonwealth president of the Royal Life Saving Society, top left, virtually present Dr. Steve Beerman, top right, with the King Edward VII Cup for his drowning-prevention work. Tanner Gorille and Sarah Downs were honoured with Russell Medals for their life-saving resuscitation. (Buckingham Palace photo)
UPDATE: Queen presents Nanaimo doctor with award for global drowning prevention

Dr. Steve Beerman receives Royal Life Saving Society’s King Edward VII Cup

A vial of AstraZeneca vaccine is seen at a mass COVID-19 vaccination clinic in Calgary, Alta., Thursday, April 22, 2021. Dr. Ben Chan remembers hearing the preliminary reports back in March of blood clots appearing in a handful of European recipients of the Oxford-AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh
Science on COVID, VITT constantly changing: A look at how doctors keep up

While VITT can represent challenges as a novel disorder, blood clots themselves are not new

Poached trees that were taken recently on Vancouver Island in the Mount Prevost area near Cowichan, B.C. are shown on Sunday, May 10, 2021. Big trees, small trees, dead trees, softwoods and hardwoods have all become valuable targets of tree poachers in British Columbia as timber prices hit record levels. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jen Osborne.
Tree poaching from public forests increasing in B.C. as lumber hits record prices

Prices for B.C. softwood lumber reached $1,600 for 1,000 board feet compared with about $300 a year ago

The warm weather means time for a camping trip, or at least an excursion into nature. How much do you know about camps and camping-related facts? (John Arendt - Summerland Review)
QUIZ: Are you ready to go camping?

How many camp and camping-related questions can you answer?

Sinikka Gay Elliott was reported missing on Salt Spring Island on Wednesday, May 12. (Courtesty Salt Spring RCMP)
Body of UBC professor found on Salt Spring Island, no foul play suspected

Sinikka Elliott taught sociology at the university

A driver was taken to hospital after crashing a pickup truck into a tree on Rutherford Road near Bradbury Road on Friday, May 14. (Chris Bush/News Bulletin)
Driver taken to hospital after crashing truck into tree on Rutherford hill in Nanaimo

RCMP investigating incident at Rutherford and Bradbury roads on Friday, May 14

Tamara Cameron, Uplands Park Elementary School music teacher and librarian, students Ben Leduc, second from left, Avery Kojima and Kinley Robson, as well as other music students from the school, will benefit from $8,000 from MusiCounts, for instruments and recording equipment. (Karl Yu/News Bulletin)
Money for new instruments music to ears of Uplands Park school staff and students

Grant from music education charity MusiCounts means students will have more ways to be creative

Sarah Boileau in her home studio on Monday, May 10. Boileau’s work will be on display at the McMillan Arts Centre in Parksville through May 30. (Submitted photo)
RCMP arrested a man in north Nanaimo who wound up empty-handed after allegedly failing at shoplifting, bank robbery and robbery at ATM machine. (File photo)
Man arrested in Nanaimo after failed attempts at bank robbery, ATM mugging, shoplifting

RCMP arrest suspect in office-supply store after ‘short-lived crime spree’

Most Read