Lessons Learned – Scotch Broom

A few years ago, my husband and I were riding in a bus filled with soon-to-be cruise mates from all over the world. We were on our way to Vancouver, British Columbia to board a ship bound for the Alaskan glaciers. Having lived in this area all our lives, hubby and I were surprised when we heard someone comment about the “pretty yellow flowers” all alongside the freeway.

Scotch Broom, or Scot’s Broom, is a very invasive plant and is classified as a noxious weed. It has pretty yellow flowers, yes, but it is aggressive in its growth to the point of pushing the native plants out.  As well, we’ve always thought it was one of the biggest allergy and asthma aggravators in our area. Turns out, it’s only a mild allergen. It takes the rap for the main offenders this time of year, alder and grass. 

The plant is native to Europe and North Africa. Urban legend says it was brought here on purpose. Sadly, that legend is true. Scotch Broom was first introduced in Washington State in the 1800’s as an ornamental plant. Now, it’s widespread from British Columbia, Canada, down through California, U.S.A.

Scotch Broom spreads by flinging its seeds for yards. Each seed (and there can be 12,000 per plant) tends to remain viable for up to 80 years. The only way to minimize its effects is to hand-pull, mow, or put a goat to work eating it. Thankfully, goats apparently do not have allergies.

As for the nice passenger on the bus, we jokingly told her she was welcome to take it all home with her. Then we filled her in on what a pain this shrub is for a lot of folks. She sagely chose to leave it behind.  🙂

So here’s my question. Do you have Scotch Broom creating havoc in your area? Or another noxious weed that sets you to sneezing as we all think Scotch Broom causes us to each May?

Ah-choo! I hope everyone is enjoying their Spring!

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17 responses to “Lessons Learned – Scotch Broom

  1. Ahhh, Scotch Broom – Laurie, I HAD to add a comment to this one – after-which all of you will think I’m totally bonkers! You see, Scotch Broom was my childhood “friend”! As a young girl, I spent a great deal of time out in the fields and woods around my home. I learned to “be one” with nature and truly appreciate the intricacies of the mysteries behind, under and among the trees, etc. So, Scotch Broom has those small beautiful flowers – when you grasp them and gently press them, the bottom part of the petals open up (like a mouth!) Yep, you guessed it – I had many “conversations” with those adorable little flowers up until I was about 12 years old and reality set in. However, when I smell that kind of sour smell of scotch broom, or see a patch of it, there is a big smile inside – hello my friend! Hope this encourage all to go play with your Broom! 🙂
    -Barb

    • Weird. I answered this post, but it doesn’t show. Barb, I always appreciate seeing the other side of an issue. Since I’ve never met anyone before who liked Scotch Broom, you are apparently a rarity, but NOT bonkers. We all had childhood friends, didn’t we? Mine was a doll I kept WAY too long. 🙂

  2. Oh Barb I love your comment. I do get a reaction from the smell but right now we seem to have an abundance of pollen from I think cotton woods. My eye was really sore yesterday and I think it was from being out in the yard the other day.

    Talk about native and not so native plants. Mom told the story and you probably have heard it, about how one night they had stopped to camp beside a marsh and her and her sisters (probably your mother included) saw these beautiful flowers. They picked a big bouquet for Nana who was appalled at the bugs that came with them. Seems they had picked Skunk Cabbage.

  3. Actually I think it’s lovely when it starts blooming. There’s an area off Highway 16, where you’re on a side road coming out of Port Orchard that you can see those yellow blooms growing in between the green trees way off in the distance. The sight is beautiful. But I also understand the nuisance of Scotch broom. Years ago we knew a fellow that traveled up and down I-5 between Tacoma and Portland for his job. He had allergies so bad that his eyes and throat would swell when he went thru areas where is grew along the highway. So what’s beauty for some can be deadly for others.

    • Hi, Linda. It is pretty. Lately, I haven’t been able to get past how it’s encroaching on the native plant life. I’m glad we’re talking about this today, though. It’s giving me fresh eyes to view the yellow through. 🙂

  4. Hmm, one wo/man’s meat is another wo/man’s poison. It must be miserable for those with allergies, Laurie, but I agree with Linda, I think it’s beautiful. Love the photos!

  5. They are beautiful, though. I haven’t seen them here where I am – they look akin to goldenrod which I’m highly allergic to.

    We have kudzu h ere that is like that in that it takes over and kills the trees it attaches itself to. I keep saying I bet the it’s the cure for cancer since God had to put it here for a reason- maybe a combo of the two of them holds the secret?

  6. Valerie J. Patterson

    The pollen count is very high here, and what began as a severe allergy attack for me last Wednesday quickly turned into an upper respiratory infection and bronchitis. Currently, I am entertaining concrete for the front and back yard painted green of course! :p

    • Oh, no! Ugh. Allergies seem to be especially bad this year. I hope you recover quickly! And, if I remember right, don’t you have a little too much yard to do the concrete thing? 🙂 Get better soon!

      • Valerie J. Patterson

        Yeah, waay too much yard, plus the bubbly hubby isn’t on board with that idea! And, thank you, I am on the rebound. Yay! 😛

        Have a fantastic weekend, Laurie!

  7. You have a great weekend, also!

  8. I haven’t heard of Scotch Broom before but here in the UK we do have a native plant we know as Gorse which looks very similar. It thrives on our moors and scrub land and is I believe the only British plant that flowers all year round. I have yellow broom in my garden but certainly isn’t invasive but is sweetly scented. The worse in the UK that gets blamed for allergies is rapeseed flowers – that always sets my hayfever off.

  9. It sounds like we all have some significant allergy triggers this time of year. Kit, I’ve never heard of Gorse or rapeseed flowers. This has been an interesting discussion, learning about different areas and what makes us sneeze. 🙂

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