Scotch Broom: Challenged and Destroyed!

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On March 30, 2022, 11 people met to tackle one of the most pervasive enemies of the watershed: scotch broom. 

If you don’t know what scotch broom is, there’s a pretty good chance you’ve seen it while driving through Nevada City or the surrounding areas. It’s frequently along roads and in areas where soil has been disturbed, and while it may be pretty, it is a major nuisance.

Scotch broom was first introduced to the U.S. in the 1800s when it was used as packing material for precious goods being shipped from Europe. It was then marketed as a lovely garden plant in the 1950s that you could buy at your local grocery store. From there, it spread wildly.

 Scotch broom is toxic to all grazing animals, allowing it to run rampant without check.  It has a taproot system, which means it is really hard to remove from the ground, and releases an excess of nitrogen into the soil, overwhelming all other plants and choking out native plants. Scotch broom seeds also can last upwards of 80 years in the soil, so when soil is disturbed the seeds will be activated by the new sun exposure and plants can grow up to 10 feet tall. 

SYRCL has been  fighting scotch broom since 2013 in highly visited spots throughout the Yuba Watershed, including Bridgeport, Hoyt’s Crossing, Purdon’s Crossing, and Independence Trail in collaboration with California State Parks

This year, SYRCL teamed up with the Bear Yuba Land Trust (BYLT) to work at Mountain Bounty Farm, a cornerstone of the community.  Scotch broom is most easily removed with a special tool called a “weed wrench,” which we were able to borrow from the Fire Safe Council of Nevada County through their weed wrench loaner program.

At our March event, volunteers spent five hours removing scotch broom, clearing an entire acre of the pesky plant! 

If you have scotch broom on your property, it is best to pull scotch broom when it is green or just starting to flower. The plant will start going to seed in late July (dependent on elevation and initial bloom time) so it is best to pull it before then. You can borrow wrenches from your local Fire Safe Council or consult on how best to proceed with your unique landscape.

Volunteers working to remove a 10 foot tall scotch broom.
Assembled: SYRCL’s River Avengers came to fight broom.
#PeopleinStem: Americorps members from across the Sierra Nevadas converged to fight broom.
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