Broom and Doom in the South Hills


by Don Metheny, Southeast Neighbors CERT Lead

Scotch Broom is an invasive woody plant spreading throughout the South Hills of Eugene.  As if the pollen were not bad enough, the plant is a wildfire hazard.  As the plant matures, the inside branches die and become a perfect tender to fuel fast moving fires.  I can see acres of Scotch Broom from my home and that worries me.  The plant has taken over large swaths of common area and undeveloped lots in my South East Neighborhood.  It crowds out native species and is so dense that even the wild animals cannot pass through.  It produces hardy seeds that spread it not only nearby, but along the banks of streams.  

Scotch Broom is difficult but not impossible to eradicate.  The key is to work at it persistently over time.  Oregon classifies Scotch Broom as a weed.  And the city of Eugene has ordinances to keep vacant lots and common areas free of weeds.  However, these ordinances are seldom enforced.  Therefore it is up to us to take on the duty of helping keep this invasive and dangerous plant in check. 

ABOUT SCOTS OR SCOTCH BROOM (CYTISUS SCOPARIUS)

Scots broom was introduced to the US by immigrants as a garden ornamental.  It found the fertile soils of the Pacific Northwest much to its liking where it grew unchecked having left its enemies behind. The weed stands out thanks to its bright yellow flowers.  See it along the Willamette River corridor.

Scots broom plants have an extremely efficient seed dispersal system.  The seed pods split at maturity and eject the seeds some distance from the plant.  Eric Wold, Natural Resources Manager for the City of Eugene, is quoted in a KVAL interview (Nelson, 2011):  “The seeds can live up to 50 years in the soil so even if we remove all the big plants, we still have to go back and look for seedlings that are germinating.”

For more information, see http://cesutter.ucanr.edu/files/102561.pdf