Scotch Broom

Posted by Ken Campbell June 20, 2009 1 Comment 761 views

Scotch Broom is native to southern Europe and northern Africa (which is more than can be said for the country of Scotland itself, but that’s the way it goes.) It seems just as likely to me, being a casual observer, that it is native to the Olympic Peninsula. It is one of those classic stories of nature run amok, like mongooses in Hawaii or frogs in Australia, that I expect will be on the FOX channel one of these days in an episode of “When Nature Goes Insane.” It’s another example of the unintended consequences of what can happen when our reach no longer exceeds our grasp.

Scotch Broom was introduced to the US as an ornamental. It was easy to grow and people liked its bright yellow flowers and its hardy nature. It’s a tough plant to kill. It’s tenacity and perennial growth made it attractive to various highway departments as a means of stabilizing roadcuts. It didn’t take long before it was popping up everywhere.

It outcompetes many native species, taking over habitat niches and driving local flora away. Scotch Broom seeds have hard coatings that enable them to survive lengthy dormant periods and are transported easily in mud stuck to vehicles, shoes and the feet of animals. Storm runoff can carry the seeds for miles, and new colonies of the plant appear almost overnight. It is such a prodigious pollinator and seed dispersal expert that, even though it has been designated a noxious weed, it’s unlikely that its presence, will ever be significantly reduced, much less eradicated. It’s hard to believe that it got here on purpose and that people used to actually take the time to plant the stuff.

When it comes to playing God, it seems we’re much better at playing the devil.

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