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Fire Safe Council battles Scotch broom

The Fire Safe Council of Nevada City declared war on highly flammable Scotch broom Tuesday in its campaign to battle wildfire.

In an unprecedented action, the council launched a three-pronged attack: It urged businesses not to sell Scotch broom, asked residents not to buy it and asked homeowners to remove it using a tool called a “weed wrench” on loan from the group.

“We want people to know it’s like putting a bomb next to their house,” said council executive director Joanne Drummond, referring to the invasive weed.



The green, fan-like plant with bright yellow flowers is often found along roadways such as Highway 49 and Pleasant Valley Road.

If Nevada County can prove to the state it has a strong eradication program, sales of Scotch broom could be restricted here, according to Agricultural Commissioner Jeff Pylman.




Many residents would welcome the action.

“The public doesn’t understand because they think it’s so pretty,” said Barbara Pixley, a Penn Valley area resident. “They don’t sell star thistle (another invasive plant) in the nursery.”

Along with its extreme flammability, “It breaks down the ecosystem,” Pixley said.

She has been destroying Scotch broom for years as a wildflower walk docent at the Bridgeport portion of the South Yuba River State Park.

“I refuse to sell it,” said Pam White, co-owner of Prospector’s Nursery in Nevada City. “It’s nasty stuff.”

White said nurseries in the area sell a hybrid version of Scotch broom that eventually reverts to the familiar, yellow-flowered plant.

“The seeds last forever in the ground and it’s very hard to get rid of,” White said. “It’s just a very invasive plant.”

“I would prefer the nurseries not sell Scotch broom, because it causes problems,” said Cathy Dykstra, owner of Cathy D’s Landscape, Inc., located between Grass Valley and Nevada City.

“It’s not one of my favorites,” because of its flammability and spread rate, Dykstra added.

Planting Scotch broom could also produce legal liability, according to Lynn Lorenson, a master gardener with the University of California’s Cooperative Extension service.

If landscapers plant it and it helps to fuel a house fire, “The lawyers are out there looking for a new group to sue,” she said.

Scotch broom can be cut at ground level and destroyed, Lorenson said. Afterward, the area around the cut Scotch broom must be watched closely, because it could have produced multiple seeds that can start new growth.

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To contact Senior Staff Writer Dave Moller, e-mail davem@theunion.com or call 477-4237.

Fighting Scotch broom

The Fire Safe Council of Nevada County can help you rid your property of Scotch broom through suggestions and by providing a special “weed wrench” – a hand tool to remove weeds. The wrench can be borrowed from the council. Call the council at 272-1122. The council also has a booklet titled Firewise Plants that can be used to find alternate vegetation to protect your home.


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