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Scotch Broom

Cytisus scoparius

Identifying Characteristics

  • 1-3 metres tall at maturity
  • branches are often leafless or have few leaves
  • stems are woody and five-angled
  • bright yellow flowers may have red markings in the centre and bloom during April, May and June
  • seed pods are flat, hairy and pea-like, initially green and turning brown or black at maturity
This is a photograph of a meadow with Scotch Broom. 3 images
This is a map of British Columbia showing the spread of invasive species.

Watch it

This is a still from a video on Scotch Broom showing school kids in the forest.
(Video 2:11 3.8 MB)

Flash Player and Javascript are required to view this video. The transcript is below.

Video transcript

Colleen Long, Coordinator of Volunteers, CRD-Regional Parks, BC with
Grade 6 Students Crystal View Elementary School

My name's Colleen Long and I'm the coordinator of volunteers with the CRD Regional Parks in Victoria, British Columbia.  We're here today at the beautiful Mill Hill Regional Park.  
This is an image of Colleen Long, coordinator of volunteers with the CRD Regional Parks in Victoria, British Columbia talking about Scotch Broom.
We have a class coming out today to help us in our 2010 Mill Hill Broom Sweep and this is a project we've been doing annually since 2002. The whole crux of the project is we are trying to help the Garry Oak ecosystem and the rare plants that are associated with it.  
This is an image of a volunteer clearing Scotch Broom in a park.
One of the biggest threats to these ecosystems is this invasive species which is Scotch Broom. Here at Mill Hill Regional Park, of the 60 hectares of parkland here, 20 hectares is made up of Garry Oak ecosystems. So, it is a very significant stand of Garry Oaks and Garry Oaks are very rare, they are only found on southern Vancouver Island. Because of that we have two parts of our program, one part, we have staff go out into the field and help remove broom around some of the rare plant populations. For that portion of the program, we get some funding from the federal government from the Habitat Protection Program for Rare Species and Species at Risk.  

The other really big part of the program that is equally as important is we invite volunteers into the park to help us with our efforts to help rid the park of Scotch Broom. The way that it works is that staff go in and clear an area and then we have the volunteers go into that same area several years later to catch some of that re-sprouting that's occurring.

They come in, just like the school group today and other groups and help clear out those areas and help keep the broom at bay. So far, since 2002, we've removed 49.2 tons  of Scotch Broom from Mill Hill Regional Park.

Report a Sighting

A homesick Scot brings an aggressive invasive species.

This is an illustration of Scotch Broom. Scotch Broom

Scotch Broom, a member of the pea family, is found in open, dry meadows and along roadsides or power lines in the south of the province, most often where the ground has been disturbed. It is an aggressive species with few, if any, natural predators. Broom is drought resistant and able to survive harsh conditions — in short, bad news for native plant species. Broom is well adapted to spreading. A single plant can produce 18,000 seeds per year. When ripe, the seed pods snap open explosively and scatter seeds up to five metres. The seeds have a tough coat that allows them to survive for up to 60 years, waiting for ideal growing conditions. Once established, broom is very difficult to remove.

Impact on Communities and Native Species

Scotch Broom is a significant threat to fragile Garry Oak ecosystems. The plant grows quickly, crowding out wildflower species and reducing open habitat favoured by native birds and butterflies. The roots of the plant harbour bacteria that change the soil so that the plant can thrive in poor soil. This, in turn, creates favourable growing conditions for other non-native species, allowing them to accompany broom as it spreads across an area. Scotch Broom also has a very high oil content making it extremely flammable.

Invasion History

Scotch Broom arrived in British Columbia in 1850 with the help of a Scot who planted it at his farm in Sooke on Vancouver Island to remind him of home. Since then the plant has spread across the southern end of Vancouver Island, through Haida Gwaii, the Kootenays, the North Okanagan-Shuswap areas and as far north as Terrace. We've helped the spread of this species. Broom, with its deep roots and rapid growth, has been used as a bank stabilizer, and its bright yellow flowers have made it a favourite ornamental in many gardens.