A Ucluelet woman is assembling a volunteer army to wage war on an invasive plant species and locals are encouraged to start the fight off right by attending the first battle on April 23.
Liisa Nielsen is a local gardener who has been researching and fighting scotch broom since moving to Vancouver Island in 1999 and she believes the invasive plant has been allowed to suffocate and kill off local species, like salmonberries, salal and huckleberries, for far too long.
“It’s an awful, invasive, aggressive, species,” she said. “It’s not beneficial to any of our animals, it doesn’t produce a fruit, deer don’t even eat the leaves and it’s killing off beneficial plants that help our native animals survive.”
She suggested broom is easy to get rid of by simply chopping it off at its root when it’s in bloom.
“When it’s in flower, all the energy to the plant is in that flower wanting to produce seeds,” she said. “That’s what plants do. Their whole entire life is put towards making seeds to reproduce itself so all the energy is up in the flowers and, if you cut it, there is no energy left in the root to re-sprout so you basically cut it off at its life source.”
She said she has successfully eradicated broom around the Black Rock Resort, where she works, as well as the street she lives on and she is organizing an April 23 volunteer event to harness the power of Ucluelet’s community spirit and eradicate broom from the entire town. This is the first time Nielsen has organized a big volunteer event like this and she hopes to see locals show up and show the invasive species the door.
“I’ve never organized anything other than a potluck,” she said. “If just two of us show up that’s more than has been happening, but it seems like there’s a bit of interest…I’m going to go out and do it and I think there’s quite a few people that are interested and want to come.”
She hopes her first ‘Let’s Sweep This Town of Broom’ event will blossom into a regular fixture on Ucluelet’s volunteer calendar.
“It will be small and just get bigger and then we won’t even have to do it because we’ll sweep the town of broom,” she said. “[Broom] is just going to continuously keep blooming throughout the summer, so if we could do this once a month, or me and a friend or two, we can be a broom-free peninsula…If we all get on board we can eradicate it within three years I bet.”
She said creating a broom-free Ucluelet could be a solid source of community pride.
“It would be a big thing to be able to say that we’re broom-free, considering it’s such an invasive and aggressive alien species,” she said. “It would be a part of small town pride.”
Nielsen has been marking areas where broom is abundant on a map and she plans to tackle these areas at the April 23 event. Anyone interested in lending a hand should meet at the ANAF parking lot—1708 Peninsula Road—at 10 a.m. with as many cutting tools they can find and Nielsen will be on hand to show participants how to chop the alien species down.
“No experience necessary as long as you like to get dirty,” she said.