Scotch Broom

Scotch Broom, Vancouver Island, BC
Scotch Broom, Vancouver Island, BC, Photo By Bud Logan

Scotch broom is an escaped garden ornamental, common west of the Coast Mountains in southwest BC, and is out of control on the BC coast. It is an evergreen shrub, with bright yellow, pea-like flowers that may have red markings in the middle.

Stems are woody and 5 angled, with lower leaves composed of 3 leaflets. The flat seedpods are initially green, turning dark brown to black with maturity, and are hairy. It grows up to 3 meters in height at maturity.

It spreads by seed and lateral bud growth, and mature plants can produce up to 3500 seed pods, each containing 5 to 12 seeds. As seedpods dry, they split and spiral, expelling the contained seeds up to 5 meters. The plant can also spread to new areas through seed transport by animals, birds, hikers, and vehicles.

Due to its affinity for light-dominated, disturbed areas, any disturbance activity, such as road or home construction near infested areas, can enhance spread. Scotch Broom invades rangelands, replacing forage plants, and is a serious competitor to conifer seedlings. Douglas fir plantation failures in Oregon and Washington have been credited to infestations of this plant.

Scotch Broom, Vancouver Island, BC
Scotch Broom, Vancouver Island, BC, Photo By Bud Logan

High-density infestations can increase wildfire fuel loads, thereby escalating wildfire intensity and dense thickets may be impacting Garry Oak woodlands in southern Vancouver Island and limiting the movement of large animals.

Year-round growth gives scotch broom the ability to displace native plant species.

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