Bust Broom in Your Backyard

May 06, 2013
NCLC neighbor uses chainsaw for "oldgrowth" scotch broom

NCLC volunteer uses chainsaw for “old growth” scotch broom

It’s hard not to notice all of the Scotch broom invading the north coast this time of year when the yellow flowers conspicuously dot the landscape. We now refer to the month of May as Broom Buster month, and during this time we are working (extra!) hard to cut back the Scotch broom on NCLC properties. Do you have Scotch broom on your own property? Are you wondering about ways to get rid of the broom in your back yard?

Small infestations can be effectively treated with basic hand tools (and a lot of dedication). Scotch broom plants produce prolific seeds that are extremely long-lived, so if you have mature plants in your yard you are certain to have a good crop of seeds waiting eagerly for some bare soil and disturbance. For this reason, using a weed wrench to pull-out mature plants or a shovel to dig out large plants, can actually do more harm than good. The one big plant you kill by ripping it out of the soil, makes great habitat for 50 young broomlings to take its place. A more effective (and easier) way to get rid of a mature Scotch broom plant is to simply cut it (with loppers, hand saw, or chain saw depending on size) below the photosynthetic stem (where the stem is at or below ground level, and brown not green). If you cut it too high on the stem, the plant will continue to photosynthesize and will just resprout from the existing stem.  If you cut the stem down low enough, however, the plant will not resprout and the ground will remain undisturbed.

For more information on Scotch broom control in the Pacific Northwest, click here.

Thanks for helping us get rid of Scotch broom on the Oregon Coast!



  1. Margaret Murdock says:

    I love this initiative, and the how-to information is extremely helpful. Wouldn’t it be better to go after the scotch broom earlier, though, before it blooms? I’m sure you have a reason for doing it in May, but since it is already blooming now in April, I would think it would be best to do it in March.

  2. Bonnie Henderson says:

    That’s a great question, Margaret! The reason that we target scotch broom in May is because it is fully in flower, but still has a month or so until it goes to seed. There are two reasons that we target the broom’s flowering season. The first is a biological reason– the plant puts a whole bunch of energy into making those flowers so when you cut it down it really knocks it back. As long as the green seed pods haven’t formed, the plant won’t be able to go to seed after you cut it down. The second is more of an awareness reason. In May, up and down the Oregon coast turns to yellow. It’s a big reminder that we have a whole lot of scotch broom and we all need to work together to do something about it. It also helps some people recognize the plant when it is in flower. But just because we are trying to emphasize the need for scotch broom removal in May, doesn’t mean that there aren’t other times of year that we can also be treating it. March and April are great months to attack the mature plants. And you can pull seedlings all year long. I would, however, try to avoid scotch broom work in the summer when the seed pods are mature and popping so you don’t spread it to new places or end up with a nice crop of 100 seedlings where you removed one plant.
    –Melissa Reich, NCLC Stewardship Director