Scotch broom pretty, but pretty noxious

About the two-dozenth time the car’s paint was raked by rows of bristled shrubs spilling out from both sides of the driveway, it finally settled in: Time to do something about the Scotch broom.

Out came the pruners and a robust garden fork, and an hour later the drive was once again clear for passage.

It’s a scene that no doubt has played out on non-suburbanized properties across the island, as the ubiquitous weed shoots to yellow-flowered abundance with spring.

Scotch broom: It’s pretty, but it’s pretty obnoxious. And for our local Weed Warriors, just plain noxious, as our friend and neighbor Anne Seeley points out. Anne slipped this note through the transom over the weekend, useful information on how islanders can do their part to “doom the broom”:

“Ah, May,” Anne writes. “And the lusciously cheerful bloom of Scottish broom is upon us once more. In the nearly 20 years I’ve lived on Bainbridge, I’ve seen it spread ever more vigorously throughout the island. This year, it seems especially abundant. More than a century ago, it was brought to the U.S. from Europe as an ornamental plant for our gardens. Today, Scotch broom threatens to overwhelm us.

“Why care? Consider this: Each plant can live for several decades and produce several tens of thousands of seeds per year. Each seed remains viable for more than 50 years (I’ve seen reports that say as long as 80 years), through fire, drought, and pretty much anything else Mother Nature cares to throw at it. With such longevity on its side, broom has the upper hand. It’s currently crowding out native plants – indeed, all plants – in field, forest, and roadside.

“Consider also that Scotch broom is widespread on both the East and West coasts of the U.S. and is a ‘noxious weed’ (that’s a legal term) in nearly every state where it is found. In both Washington State and Kitsap County, broom is considered a Class B noxious weed, which means that it’s currently limited to only portions of the state/county (though expanding rapidly), and prevention of new infestations is a high priority.

“The good news is two-fold. First, Scotch broom is relatively easy to control by mechanical means. It reproduces by seed: if you control seed production, you control the infestation. Small plants are easy to pull up by hand, and larger plants can be cut down with a handsaw or brush cutter. But do it now, before the seed pods form. Repeat the process for the next two or three years, and the broom is doomed.

“Second, for those who admire the landscape value of these tall, loosely arching, yellow-flowered shrubs, several admirable non-invasive alternatives are available. Forsythia (Forsythia x intermedia), winter jasmine (Jasminum nudiflorum), Japanese kerria (Kerria japonica), and cornelian cherry (Cornus mas, a more tree-like plant) are four to consider.”

Anne goes on to note that Bainbridge Island Weed Warriors are at hand to provide information on Scotch broom removal (or simply “why it matters”) at 780-2111. The club will also have a booth at the Grand Old Fourth and the Bainbridge in Bloom garden tour.

In the meantime, you might just take their word for it and prune.

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