Charla Huber: Scotch broom, i’ve got your back

Like a lot of people, I like rooting for the underdog.

It’s nice to hear a rags-to-riches story or see the darkhorse player score the winning goal. But whenever I stick up for Scotch broom, I feel like I’ve become the black sheep.

People are attempting a mass genocide of this plant. I feel they are hopping on the “kill the broom” lynch mob.

Sure it’s invasive, but the vast majority of people are invasive. I am from Alberta (and half First Nations, half Swedish), so I too am invasive.

When we build houses and roads, we are taking up space that would have been used by other species native to the land. But as Metchosin environmentalist and councillor Moralea Milne points out, people can be reasoned with, and broom cannot.

For most of my arguments, Milne voices an opposition that trumps my point. If I’d say, “broom is a nitrogen fixer,” she’d answer, “Well that’s a good thing in the garden, but not when other plants have already adapted to the soil.”

Milne one, Huber zero.

Continuing on, Milne explains that broom shades out other plants, it’s drought-resistant and tolerant of the hot sun.

Both of us can agree it’s one tough bugger. “It doesn’t have the predators that would keep it in check,” Milne says.

She explains the predators it’s lacking could be insects or fungus, but I prefer to think of a broom-eating werewolf somewhere in the world.

I picture in my head these brave little seeds travelling across the ocean to escape the wrath of their predator.

But I know they didn’t plan a great escape, they were brought here in the coat pocket of a ship’s captain more than 150 years ago.

As a journalist I know when those little yellow flowers pop out to say hello, I’ll be writing about broom eradication. And that’s fine. Many people devote a lot of time to the cause. I respect their enthusiasm.

But for the past couple of years, something has boggled my mind. At good old-fashioned broom pulls, people don’t pull the plants out anymore, they just cut them off at the soil, keeping the roots in the ground. I’ve also talked to groups who cut the plants after the seeds fall each year. The seeds can stay dormant for decades. In my mind that’s similar to putting a bed sheet over an elephant and saying the problem is gone.

Once again Milne steps up to bat and hits a homer out of the park.

“When you pull a plant out you are turning up the soil as you pull, that brings the seed bank up to ideal growing conditions,” she says, explaining if you cut a broom plant with a thick stem at the soil, most likely it won’t grow back.

I enjoy vegetable gardening in the spring and summer. I’ve even dabbled a little in winter gardening, too. I have a hard time pulling weeds in my plot and think to myself, ‘Who I am I to remove this weed?’ Often I let them stay.

While I have compassion for broom, Milne’s points are hard to ignore.

“The broom plant might be where 100 other plants once were. Those different plants could be in bloom all year long,” Milne says.

She continues her argument by stating many insects would eat those 100 plants. The insects would be eaten by other bugs, and so on.

“You don’t want to look at just one tree or one plant, you have to look at the ecosystem.”

When I state that broom has a right to exist, Milne replies, “Then you are sacrificing hundreds and thousands of species for one.”

The one thing Milne and I can agree on is that it’s not the broom’s fault it’s here – broom is getting punished due to other people’s actions.

Charla Huber is a reporter for the Goldstream News Gazette.

reporter@goldstreamgazette.com

Just Posted

Karl and Stephanie Ann Johanson were thrilled to spot a pair of Sandhill Cranes in the Panama Flats this month, an unusual appearance for such birds. (Photo by Stephanie Ann Johanson)
WATCH: Sandhill cranes an unusual, joyful sight in Saanich parkland

The birds don’t often touch down in the south of the Island

Jesse Roper tackles weeds in his garden to kick off the 2021 season of What’s In My Garden Man? (YouTube/Whats In My Garden)
VIDEO: Metchosin singer-songwriter Jesse Roper invites gardeners into his plot

What’s In My Garden, Man? kicks off with the poop on compost

Barriers to rental housing brought on by no-pet rules add stress to renters, says councillor. (Pixabay)
Saanich councillor wants to remove barriers to housing for pet owners

Motion calling for province to amend lease stipulations against pet ownership defeated in 5-4 vote

A sketch of the multi-use path that will connect Lagoon Beach and Royal Beach in Colwood. (Sketch courtesy of the City of Colwood)
Concepts for Colwood beach connector coming to council June 21

Major infrastructure project includes gathering places, public amenities and pathways

(V.I. Trail/Google Maps)
Now 90% complete, Vancouver Island trail forges new funding parnership

Victoria Foundation takes on Vancouver Island Trail Association; fund valued at $40,000

A small pod of Pacific white-sided dolphins pass by close to shore in Campbell River June 16, 2021. Still capture from video courtesy of Kimberly Hart
VIDEO: Dolphin sunset captured from Vancouver Island shore

Spectacular setting for view of travelling pod of Pacific white-sided dolphins

Police are asking for public assistance in locating Anthony Graham who has been charged with the murders of Kamloops brothers Carlo and Erick Fryer. (RCMP photo)
2 charged, suspect at large in killings of B.C. brothers linked to gang activity: RCMP

Kamloops brothers Erick and Carlo Fryer were found deceased in May on a remote Okanagan road

Albert Health Minister Tyler Shandro and Alberta Premier Jason Kenney unveil an opening sign after speaking about the Open for Summer Plan and next steps in the COVID-19 vaccine rollout, in Edmonton, Friday, June 18, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jason Franson
Alberta 1st province in Canada to lift all COVID-19 public health restrictions

70.2% of eligible citizens 12 and older in the province have received a dose of the vaccine

Fraser Health registered nurse Ramn Manan draws a dose of the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine into a syringe at a walk-up vaccination clinic at Bear Creek Park, in Surrey, B.C., on Monday, May 17, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
‘Honour our fathers’ with COVID-19 vaccine protection, B.C. urges

109 new cases Friday, 75 per cent of 12 and up immunized

Freighters have becomd abundant in the Trincomali Channel on the east side of Thetis Island.
Nanaimo ponders taking on waste from nearby anchored freighters

Vancouver-based Tymac petitioning the Regional District of Nanaimo to accept waste at its landfill

(Paul Henderson/ Chilliwack Progress)
Trutch Avenue in Chilliwack to be renamed to remove racist taint

New name to have Indigenous significance as Chilliwack takes new step toward reconciliation

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is seen during a joint news conference following the EU-Canada Summit, in Brussels, Belgium, Tuesday June 15, 2021. Trudeau says Canada is on track now to have 68 million doses delivered by the end of July, which is more than enough to fully vaccinate all 33.2 million Canadians over the age of 12. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Vaccine deliveries enough to fully vaccinate all eligible Canadians by end of July

Three in four eligible Canadians now have their first dose, nearly one in five fully vaccinated.

Chief Public Health Officer Theresa Tam listens to a question during a news conference, in Ottawa, Tuesday, Jan. 12, 2021. The number of confirmed COVID-19 cases attributed to the highly contagious Delta variant grew in Canada this week. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Canada’s public health agency reports spike in confirmed cases of Delta variant

More than 2,000 cases of the variant confirmed across all 10 provinces and in one territory

(Black Press Media file photo)
POLL: When was the last time you visited the mainland?

The films are again lighting the screens at local theatres, the wine… Continue reading

Most Read