Scotch broom in full bloom: 'It just starts taking over'

Scotch broom in full bloom: 'It just starts taking over' »Play Video

EUGENE, Ore. - Lane County has an invader on its hands.

"It showed up, and now it's just continuing to spread throughout the county," said OSU Extension agent Ross Penhallegon.

Scotch broom, a small yellow bush may look innocent enough, but looks can be deceiving.

"It will out compete all native vegetation that does provide habitat for plants and animals," said Eric Wold, Natural Resources Manager for the City of Eugene.

Scotch broom arrived in the Northwest from Europe in the 1850s, and it's been a nuisance ever since.

Wold said it's typically found in disturbed areas, like railroad tracks, vacant land and near power lines.

"In our Ridgeline Park System, you can see Scotch broom," said Wold. "Along the Willamette River corridor you can see it."

The weed stands out thanks in part to it's bright yellow flowers.
    
And other than looking pretty, Wold said the invasive species doesn't serve much of a purpose.

"It forms dense mono-cultures that wildlife don't use, birds don't nest in it, birds don't feed on it," he said.

It can also be toxic to some animals, highly flammable if it dries out - and very hard to get rid of.

"The seeds of the plant can live up to 50 years in the soil," said Wold, "so even if we remove all the big plants, we still have to go back and look for seedlings that are germinating."

One place you won't find Scotch broom is at Delta Ponds in Eugene. The city spent five years removing it and other invasive species like blackberry. In its place, they've put in many native plants.

"We've planted 70,000 native trees in its place," said Wold. "It's long, labor intensive and somewhat expensive."

But both he and Penhallegon said it's possible to get rid of the plant.

You can use herbicides to get rid of the plant or cut it yourself, but there is no overnight solution.

"You cut it off, let it grow 12 inches, cut it off, cut it off, cut it off, so eventually it drains the energy out of the root system," said Penhallegon. "It takes patience."

Both agreed now is the time to remove Scotch broom from property while it's still in bloom.

After June, seeds are set on the plant and can spread more easily.