City, volunteers work to eliminate scotch broom

Invasive Plant Awareness Month intended to educate public on consequences of alien species.

Davey Tree Services employees Matthew McDonald, left, and Tyler Haslam begin chipping a large pile of scotch broom at the Nanaimo Fire Rescue training centre Thursday. The broom was collected during Nanaimo’s Invasive  Plant Awareness Month, designed to educate the public on the consequences of invasive species.

Davey Tree Services employees Matthew McDonald, left, and Tyler Haslam begin chipping a large pile of scotch broom at the Nanaimo Fire Rescue training centre Thursday. The broom was collected during Nanaimo’s Invasive Plant Awareness Month, designed to educate the public on the consequences of invasive species.

The month-long battle against scotch broom is over, but the war will continue in an effort to eradicate the invasive species and others like it.

On Thursday, city officials, community volunteers, and organizers of Invasive Plant Awareness Month, held over May, gathered for a post-mortem of their efforts. The result was a massive pile of cut broom at the Nanaimo Fire Rescue training facility, where it was being chipped by Davey Tree Services before being trucked to Harmac mill to be burned.

Volunteer Judy Borserio, who estimates she spent about 40 hours in May cutting broom, said a community effort to control the rapidly spreading invasive plant can go a long way in reducing it.

“It’s amazing what you can do in two hours,” she said. “And most of us out there removing it aren’t young. But if we really want to stop the spread of this we’re going to need a lot more people to help next year. ”

A total of about 200 volunteer person hours in eight work parties went into clearing areas infested with broom, most of it along the Parkway Trail and Railway Avenue. Volunteer crews in Lantzville cleared an area at Superior and Ware roads, and vow the small municipality will be broom-free in two years. About 20 students in Dover Bay Secondary School’s Eco Club also helped out.

“We’re cutting it down faster than the broom is spreading,” said Joanne Sales, director of Broom Busters, a volunteer group with the single mandate of eliminating the plant.

Removing scotch broom is over for the season as the plant has now stopped blooming and is entering its seeding stage. The plant, with its bright yellow flowers and coarse green branches, dominates indigenous vegetation in many areas in the mid-Island region. It is toxic to most animals – deer may give it a nibble but always resort to feeding on the grass around it – and it provides no habitat for animals.

Rob Lawrance, the city’s environmental planner, said the intention of Invasive Plant Awareness Month is to educate the public on the drawbacks of invasive plants.

“I sometimes have people tell me that these invasive plants thrive because it’s just survival of the fittest, but the reality is that they create a loss of biodiversity and that there is a deeper story, which is why there is a concern and we have to manage them,” said Lawrance.

The city’s parks, recreation and culture department worked with the planning department and Broom Busters to organize Invasive Plant Awareness Month. Drop-off locations were provided by Woodgrove Centre, Nanaimo North Town Centre and Nanaimo Recycle Exchange.

“It was a great community effort and of course we thank all of the volunteers and organizations that helped out,” said Deborah Beck, recreation coordinator for parks and rec.

English ivy, daphne, Himalayan blackberry, and giant hogweed are other species being targeted for removal. Lawrance added next year’s Invasive Plant Awareness Month will likely focus on English ivy, which chokes out natural vegetation including large trees.

For more information, please visit www.nanaimo.ca/goto/invasives. For more information on Broom Busters, visit www.broombusters.org.

Nanaimo News Bulletin

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