Friday, June 5, 2009

Where It All Began

Kind of pretty isn't it? Bright and cheerful, especially on a dreary spring day. (Which today is definitely not, but it often is a bit drippy when this plant is flowering.) Too bad it's such a scourge on Vancouver Island. Yesterday I travelled to Sooke to do an interview for the book project I'm working on. As I drove along the windy West Coast Road I was reminded that Sooke is where it all began. In 1850, Captain Walter Colquhoun Grant, pining for the yellow hillsides of Scotch broom he remembered from "The Old Country" (as my Scottish granny used to call it), planted some broom seeds that he'd been give by the British Consul in Hawaii (of all places). Three of the seeds germinated. Think about that. THREE PLANTS. If you've been on the island, you'll know how common this plant is, especially in disturbed areas like roadsides, cleared lots, and it's sneaking it's way everywhere, even fairly pristine habitats. This is very bad news for native plants (and people with hay fever). At this time of year — when it's in full bloom — Grant's legacy is frighteningly apparent.

Scotch broom is presently in full flower. It's in bloom everywhere, dotting hillsides and roadsides with swatches of vibrant daffodil-yellow. It's in Tofino and area, too. If you have some in your yard, you might consider getting your clippers (or a pruning saw if it's gone too far) and hacking it out NOW, quick before it goes to seed. Those seeds are nasty. They live inside little seed pods until the pods dry out and go kaboom on a hot day, sending seed everywhere. (My yard is still broom free, but there are plants nearby, so I might just have my own little broom eradication work-out this weekend.)

Barry Campbell, now retired from Pacific Rim National Park, is a one-man wrecking team when it comes to broom. With only occasional help from others, he is painstakingly trying to eradicate Scotch broom from the national park. I helped out on these "Broom Bashes" a couple of times and it was nasty work. We ended up with a haystack-sized piles in the parking lot and still Barry had to come back year after year to pull out all the little babies. One plant can create a lot of trouble, so do yourself — and native plants — a favour and help them disappear. (And thank you Barry. You are my hero.)

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