California Native Plant Society

Conservation Program

Citizens in Action: The Broom Education and Eradication Program in Forest Ranch

Jennifer Jewell

Weeds are part of life. But some weeds are far more pernicious than others. In California all varieties of broom fit the pernicious category: due to high levels of volatile oils, broom plants are extreme fire hazards; as they spread, broom choke out native plants; and all portions of broom plants are toxic, offering no food or shelter of any kind to native wildlife.


© Jennifer Jewell 2010

Dulcy Schroeder is a founder of and dedicated volunteer for an organization known as B.E.E.P., Broom Education and Eradication Program, based out of Forest Ranch. Dulcy, her husband Hans, and their two young boys built their home in the Big Chico Creek Canyon about 12 years ago. “The entire building site was covered in star thistle (Centaurea solstitialis), so I started with the eradication of that,” Dulcy says. However, she quickly became aware of the extent of the broom problem as well. “Especially along the creek - stands and stands of the broom choked and clogged the creek sides smothering out the riparian plants and animals that should have been at home there.”

French broom (Genista monspessulana), Spanish broom (Spartia junceum) and Scotch Broom (Cytisus scoparius) are invasive plants throughout California. The California Invasive Plant Council (Cal-IPC) lists 23 California counties suffering environmentally and economically from broom infestations.

Members of the pea family, broom species are native to Europe. The plants develop amazing taproots, making them successful in drought climates and difficult to completely pull once established. They form a dizzying number of hard coated seeds, which remain viable for between 20 and 80 years. First introduced to California as garden ornamentals in the 1850s broom was eventually used in government roadside erosion control programs. Broom have no natural controls in California, and even fire aids their spread as broom seeds germinate more quickly and effectively than native plant seeds allowing broom seedlings to shade out other plants.

Dulcy realized that as long as the plants continued to set seed upstream and uphill from her, she was doomed. In 2006, she and a knowledgeable group of other plant lovers formed BEEP. The group began by submitting “public awareness” articles to the Forest Ranch Post: “the more people we got pulling broom or destroying seed on their own properties, the better for the whole watershed.”

BEEP created an informational brochure on why and how to begin controlling broom; they presented elementary school programs in Forest Ranch and nearby Chico. They began holding regular pull-days throughout the winter season. From 2006 until the end of March 2010, BEEP and their many partners and volunteers has pulled an estimated 200,000 broom plants. Ultimately, BEEP hopes to be a template for others dealing with invasive plant problems.

Many agencies have provided BEEP with help along the way, including: Big Chico Creek Ecological Reserve, the Big Chico Creek Watershed Alliance, the Butte County Resource Conservation District, the Butte County Fire Safe Council, Cal Fire, Cal Trans, Butte County Roads, Cal State Parks, Friends of Bidwell Park, City of Chico Parks Division, (CSUC Students), Sierra Pacific Industries, California Native Plant Society’s Mt. Lassen Chapter and the California Conservation Corps.

Dulcy is dismayed that broom is still available in the nurseries: “My first recommendation for home gardeners is Don’t Buy It – not even if a variety is listed as sterile.” To control broom, BEEP and their inter-agency partners recommend

  • Removal: Removal is the ultimate goal. Hand-pulling in the moist seasons works for smaller plants and seedlings.
  • Seeds: If unable to remove the entire plant, cut the flowers before they form seeds. Be sure to leave at least a foot of stem to grip for removal during the next rainy season.
  • Seedlings: Seedlings appearing after rains can be hand-pulled. Broom seed are long-lived - plan on pulling seedlings for several years. Careful spot spraying with Roundup is a chemical option.
  • Re-Vegetation: Replanting with fire resistant plants can deter broom seed from germinating/growing.” BEEP recommends natives alternatives including many varieties of Ceanothus, redbud (Cercis occidentalis), and flannel bush (Fremontodendron californicum)

To get help learning how to effectively remove broom yourself or for more information, you can reach BEEP by phone at: 530-892-8726.

Contributor Jennifer Jewell hosts In a North State Garden weekly on Northstate Public Radio 91.7 fm KCHO Chico/88.9 fm KFPR Redding). For more information: www.jewellgarden.com.

 

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