‘We’re trying to save where we live’: Spread of invasive species rallies Vancouver Island volunteers

CHEK

Packing sharp shears and a team of volunteers in Coombs Monday, Joanne Sales set out on a mission that some may consider impossible.

They’re looking to stop the bright yellow, invasive, and highly flammable scotch broom that is taking over wild Vancouver Island.

“It outgrows all our native species, it outgrows our tree seedlings,” Sales told CHEK News on Monday.

The Oceanside woman founded Broombusters 18 years ago to save her organic blueberry farm from the woody weed. Every year since she has welcomed hundreds of volunteers who roll up their sleeves and cut it from its roots in the ground as it blooms when it’s most vulnerable to being killed.

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“We’re never going to get rid of it, but we just want to save this park, and this roadway and this playground and try to keep it from spreading into our forest lands, and right now it has practically taken over Vancouver Island,” said Sales.

“We are trying to save where we live.”

Where Broombusters recently cut along the Coombs Trail, native species, from wild roses to Oregon grapes, are already bouncing back, and small trees that were being choked by the overpowering broom have a chance to grow now.

According to Sales, large regions that were cut in years past like Qualicum Beach, have barely any broom there now.

“Last year we had over 600 volunteers cutting broom for over 6,000 hours,” said Sales.

Nanaimo landscaper Rajeev Penke told CHEK News it’s also important that broom is cut within cities too, and he set out Monday to do just that in commercial lots.

“Yes, we are seeing a lot of Scotch Broom, especially in commercial properties. They grow fast and spread a lot,” said Penke.

According to Sales, the bright yellow bloom that makes the broom so vulnerable will likely only last another week, and she urges people across the Island to do their part to protect the land they love.

Skye Ryan

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