Broom Bashing II

Posted by on Mar 3, 2010 in Farm Blog, Flora and Fauna, Invasives | 17 comments

You don’t push brooms, you PULL them!

It turns out there is an upside to all the rain we’ve been having.  Beyond the obvious replenishing of our reservoirs, decreased fire danger, and grateful garden plants that is.  The rain has made our soils much softer…potentially problematic in regards to mudslides I admit, but where French Broom (Genista monspessulana) is concerned, the excess rain is exactly what we needed.

French Broom (Genista monspessulana)

You might remember last November’s Broom Bashing post about how much I truly loathe this plant, and why…really, I despise it.  I find Poison Oak irritating.  Oxalis is a royal nuisance.  Brambles and Bull Thistles are tenaciously leather-glove-piercingly thorny.  French Broom though is (almost) in a league of its very own.  It’s by no means the only invasive plant here, but it is by FAR the hardest to eradicate.

In the past twelve months I’ve been noticing French Broom popping up in more areas of our property.  It’s a cowardly plant, often found hiding behind Miner’s lettuce, cowering beneath the Sword Ferns, and lurking amidst the monkey-flowers, attempting to evade detection. Twice a year though we make every effort to pull it, or even cut it if we have to.  ANYTHING to prevent it from blooming, and setting more seed.

Sometimes I feel like I’m just giving it a minor wrist-slap…but last Friday, I donned the gloves, pushed up my sleeves, and went the full 10 rounds.

Time to roll up the sleeves...

I’m sure it’s not a total knockout, but I did pull more than a thousand plants just from the hillside in the front of the house.  At the end of the day I was somewhat question-mark-shaped from bending down all day, but I felt almost smug.  I filled the front-loader on the tractor with plants of all sizes, an inch high, to over 4 feet.  Even some of the larger plants that have been cut a few times, that refused to previously let go of the surrounding soil, were successfully terminated.

Hundreds, maybe even thousands of broom plants removed from the hillside on Friday

I admit, the broom did fight back once or twice, knocking me over backwards as the roots reluctantly released their grip on the soil, but a few minor bruises were worth it.

Now is the perfect time to pull broom. The soils are soft, helping to ensure that the entire root is removed.

I know some people think it’s pretty, but when I see just how much of it is invading our California wild-lands, my heart absolutely sinks.  Our wet winter will mean a bumper broom bloom and early seed set for this pervasive weed all over the Bay Area this spring.  We have another stand behind the house that will be attacked this week, as that task has now shot to the top of my priority list, but I know it won’t be enough.  In the last few years, more and more French Broom has been gradually encroaching down on the main county road. We’re even starting to see it sprout along the creek banks, and despite winning my albeit small battle on Friday, it’s clear I’m losing the war.

A truly horrifying sight, some of the broom is starting to bloom!

This problem is obviously much bigger than me.  I’ll continue to wage my insignificant battles here on the home-front, pulling every plant by the roots that I can find growing here, like some crazed, deranged, obsessive-compulsive broom-butcherer.  Then I’ll try experimenting with some native plants that might be able to survive in the now nitrogen-rich soils where the broom stood, in some vain attempt to find something that can out-compete this hostile invader.  I have some Arroyo Lupine (Lupinus succulentus) I can transplant out.  It’s worth a try.


The flowers are pretty, but it just doesn't belong here

We know we have many more rounds to go in this fight, but for as long as we’re here, we’ll never give up.

“I have nothing to offer but blood, toil, tears and sweat.” ~Winston Churchill


  1. Dear CV, You really do mean war against this plant, don’t you, and, looking at your pictures I can begin to see why. As you say, having had rain, the wet soil makes it much easier to remove weeds of whatever kind so it is a good time to do this thankless task.

    I LOVED the picture of the woman rolling her sleeves up….it really made me laugh and brought back memories of posters used in the war. Still, that is what you are waging….WAR!!

  2. Ugh, hateful, hateful plant. Especially since it’s still being sold in many nurseries. Perhaps perspective buyers of Scotch broom and its nasty relatives should do a compulsory weekend of community service pulling it out of the hillsides before purchasing.
    Good job! You’ll win eventually!

  3. Its a wonder when some plants can be so prolific in its growing ability, spreading far so easy, and yet some plants are weaklings, need to be nursed to grow. ~bangchik

  4. I was told off by an elderly relative for pushing a broom, you are meant to pull them towards you – i thought you’d had a similiar childhood experience, haha. How lovely of you to visit me and now I have another great blog to visit. Love the Newgrange sprial 😉 xxx

  5. It seems you have the same attitude towards broom as I have towards ‘Amerikaanse vogelkers’ (Prunus serotina, Black cherry?) and ‘Amerikaanse eik’ (Quercus rubra, red oak).
    But I have the impression that here in Europe, less American species seem to be invasive then the other way round.

    It has been explaned to me, that when Europeans arrived in America, they started disturbing the soil, a thing many American natives weren’t used to, and didn’t tolerate. On the other hand, in Europe the soil has been cultivated and disturbed for a very long time, and hence the plants growing in Europe where accustomed to disturbed soils, and thrived….

  6. Why is it that all nuisance plants have such deep roots? We have a particularly irritating plant called Desert Broom.

  7. Edith, you’re right, I am waging a war!

    Christine, I like your idea of community service broom-pulling. When people realize how impossible it is to get rid of, maybe they’ll stop buying it! I don’t understand why nurseries can still sell it in California. If Oregon can ban Butterfly Bush, why haven’t we banned this? 🙁

    Bangchik, I wish all my plants were this easy to grow!

    Welcome Carrie! I think you’re the first to notice that our spiral came from the Newgrange curbstone 😛

    Anne, it’s hard to believe, but the first broom plants were only introduced (as garden ornamentals) in California in 1871. By 1940, they were completely out of control.

    Noelle, I think those long taproots, and the ability to thrive in the poorest of soils are why these plants are so successful. Both our broom, and yours. They can grow anywhere, with no supplemental water, in the harshest of conditions…nothing seems to deter them!

  8. You really went to work. The wet soil does make weeding so much easier. I wonder if French Broom is similar to the stinky Scotch Broom that is everywhere here (considered a noxious weed). I noticed today it’s getting ready to bloom.
    I hope the Lupine will grow for you in it’s place.

  9. Nice to see you looking at the positive side of rain. Here in rainy Ireland, we find ourselves trying to do that on a regular bases.

  10. Oh CV! You know I feel for you!
    But it does seem that you are very good at taking on a determined invader…so when you’ve finished there, how about you pop over to Aus? I have a comparatively small job for you 😉

  11. We are fighting a few invasive pests of our own up here in Canada. Trying to do our part not to use any invasive plant species in our hanging baskets 🙂

  12. Sigh. I can glance out my car window and see a very successful invasive in the Southeast almost everywhere I go: kudzu. I wish you luck in establishing at least a broom-free zone on your property.

  13. Keep up the good fight. If you multiple those thousand plants you pulled by the tens of thousands of seeds they put out in a year, you made a major dent in the broom community. They are ridiculously prolific. I was weeding today. Perfect weeding weather, sunny and warm, but the ground was nice and soft. I had a similar need once to root tons of cotoneaster out of a garden I maintain on a very soft soil day.

  14. CSV, I hear you loud and clear! My biggest war is on the dreadful dollar weed that grows a foot every time a blink! It’s spreading roots go everywhere! They bury themselves underneath the weed barrier and poke their round heads up above, making it virtually impossible to pull. You’ve done a fine job of kicking your weed to the curb!! Keep up the good fight!

  15. Wow! That’s hardcore!

    Broom bush is a pain in the ass, and the rain definitely helps to pull it up. I’m more offended at seeing people use roundup more than seeing broom bush, but I get your point.

    Good luck with the war, soldier!

  16. Wonderful passionate post for native plants! I so have empathy for you! I hope you were not too sore the next day! Good luck with your native alternative… the trick is to find something that is as vigorous as you say.

  17. I so totally relate and sympathize with every turn of your emotions in this post! I need to check the corral. When a goat lived there we had no problems with broom, but it does come back. It can get depressing watching the yellow invader light up the roadsides. That and acacia. And sour grass – all yellow and all bad!