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Ask Erin: Seeing yellow; tackling the invasive Scotch Broom | Kitsap Week

Scotch Broom blooms along roads in Kitsap. - Erin Jennings
Scotch Broom blooms along roads in Kitsap.
— image credit: Erin Jennings

Dear Erin,

Scotch Broom is taking over every where in Kitsap County. Highway 3 has it mile after mile.  I live on Chico Way and have noticed that it is beginning to spread from the Chico Way exit north, heading for Newberry Road.  What I do not understand is why no one is making an attempt to stop the spread?  There must be something that can be done.  And, by something, I mean a method that does not use anything toxic.

I have kept it from my yard over the years and each spring I pull up or chop down any I find.

Blinded by the ‘broom in Bremerton

Dear Blinded,

I contacted the Kitsap County Noxious Weed department at the Washington State University Extension Office and asked Noxious Weed Coordinator Dana Coggon about the bright yellow plant that is making such a big impact along our roads.

Coggon said this spring, her office has received approximately 80 phone calls on this invasive vegetation. Seems like you aren’t the only one seeing yellow.

According to Coggon, Scotch Broom is not a designated noxious weed for control here in Kitsap County. For many Western Washington counties, Scotch Broom is so wide spread that it is not seen as good use of resources to mandate its control. She estimated the yearly cost to control Scotch Broom would exceed well over one million dollars.

Coggon said to not become discouraged. Continuing to remove the plants from your property can make a big impact. Her motto is: “One a day keeps millions away.” (The seeds from a Scotch Broom plant are viable for 80 years.) She also encourages community-wide pulls in public areas such as parks, neighborhoods and green spaces. By removing one plant a day, you can really make a big impact.

Coggon said the challenge for community pulls along major roadways such as Highway 3, is that permits and proper signage are required to do so. Also, a dumpster is needed to collect the Scotch Broom. Leaving it along the roadside is a big no-no, as it can easily become fuel for fires.

Native to Scotland, Scotch Broom was originally brought here as an ornamental plant for gardens. Its heartiness and draught-resistance made it a popular choice. Since its introduction, it has taken over land (especially in recently cleared areas) creating a solid mono culture that doesn’t allow native plants to thrive.

The great irony in our battle against Scotch Broom? Scotland is struggling with our native rhododendrons, as they are out-competing their native Scotch Broom.

Oh nature...your wonders never cease.

Tips for removing Scotch Broom:

While the plant is still in bloom (right now), you can pull it or cut it and put the steams into yard-waste bins.

Once the flowers begin to die and the seeds mature (Coggon estimates this will begin to happen within the next two weeks), the plant needs to either be put into the trash, or left to dry on your property for about a week and then burned. (Make sure to check local burn bans and other restrictions before igniting the ‘broom.)

Happy pulling!

— Ask Erin is a feature of Kitsap Week. Have a question? Write Ask Erin, Kitsap Week, P.O. Box 278, Poulsbo 98370 or email ejennings@northkitsapherald.com. Questions can range from advice to practical issues.

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