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Doom the broom! Strategies to rid the west of an invasive fire prone plant

Blog Post created by laurenbackstrom Employee on Apr 25, 2012

Jim Broshears

Retired Fire Chief, Jim Broshears of Paradise California with Spanish Broom

Weed Wrench

CCC Member with weed wrench to pull broom roots and all from the ground mid-winter to early spring

In California and several western states, the cry “doom the broom!” has special meaning. Several species of the Broom plant were introduced for erosion control and ornamental use from the Mediterranean and have now spread to be a weed on an estimated 600,000 acres in California. It is not only a problem that affects habitats by crowding out other plants but is also a very serious problem that can contribute to the intensities of wildfires. As you can see, the Broom plant spreads prolifically. Like soybeans, it fixes nitrogen so it can fertilize the soil for itself creating healthy, thick stands of ladder fuel.  There are four species of Broom Spanish Broom (Spartium junceum) pictured here, French Broom (Genista L.), Scotch Broom (Cytisus L) and Portuguese broom (Cytisus striatus).

One plant can produce over 20,000 seeds, so it is important that the plant is properly removed to prevent spreading. The best time of year to remove Broom is when soil is moist during the middle of winter or early spring and they can be pulled before the plant has had a chance to produce seeds.  A weed wrench shown here by the CCC is the best way to pull the plant out.  The wrench is placed at the base of the plant and with a slow sideways motion the plant is pulled out by the root.  You don’t want to cut the plant in winter or spring when there is soil moisture or it will produce more suckers and spread.  Cutting should only be done when the plants are drought stressed and 80 to 30% will not resprout.  Once the plant is pulled it should be bagged and disposed of so that seeds are not spread or burned (only with the permission and following the regulations of your local fire district). Residents of Sutter, Yuba and Butte Counties in California can get more information about Broom, methods of removal and its potential environmental impact from Glenn Nader, Farm Advisor with the UCCE Cooperative Extension at ganader@ucdavis.edu.

To see more “broom doomers” in action, visit the Scotch Broom Challenge area of the Fire Safe Council of Nevada County (California) website for images, videos and more.

--Faith Berry

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