Adam Kveton Photo Broombusters founder and director Joanne Sales shows a cutting of the invasive plant her organization is working to eradicate. She and a gang of volunteers got to work for the annual Parksville Broomfest on Saturday, May 13.

Broombusters spreading on Vancouver Island

Invasive plant removers gather for Parksville Broomfest

You might say Broombusters is growing faster than the invasive plant it works to eradicate.

The organization, started by Joanne Sales in the Qualicum Beach/Coombs area in 2006, had 500 volunteers cut broom for 3,000 hours last year on east Vancouver Island, she said.

This year, they’ve got more new member communities, with groups cutting back Scotch broom from Campbell River to Duncan, said Sales.

The organization has been present in Parksville for 10 years now, and Sales said she is proud to report that they are definitely making headway across the mid-island.

“Where volunteers are working, broom is disappearing,” she said, speaking from the annual Parksville Broomfest event, which had more than a dozen volunteers removing the plants along Chattell Road near the weigh station on the Island Highway on Saturday, May 13.

Sales said broom is bad for native plant species and poses a fire hazard. The plant was brought to the Island in 1850 and spread rapidly, said Sales. It grows densely wherever there is sun, making it impossible for most other plants to grow.

Powell River’s fire chief, Terry Peters, identifies broom as “a volatile flash fuel,” according to the Broombusters website.

Broom was thought to be almost impossible to get rid of at one time due to the high number of seeds that each plant produces, and because those seeds can remain viable in soil for 20 to 40 years, said Sales.

If you pull broom out of the ground, that disturbs the soil and creates an ideal environment for more broom to grow.

The technique that is bringing success in communities like Qualicum Beach and Parksville is cutting the plant’s main stem right at ground level, and during the spring, Sales said.

For more info on this technique, check out the group’s website at broombusters.org .

Al Vermeulen and his wife, Dawn, were perhaps the newest volunteers at this year’s Broomfest. Having just moved to the area from Oregon, the pair had heard Sales speak and decided to join in on the cut.

Oregon has a similar problem with broom, said Vermeulen. “You see miles and miles of it,” but he had never known there was an effective way for eliminating the plant.