Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Sweet Broom for Sale! Buy it Now!

My eyes almost popped out of my head the other day while walking into the "super CVS" on Broadway and 51st.  What is Scotch Broom doing in those 2 gallon containers?!  Are those FOR SALE?! 
For those that might not be familiar, Scotch Broom and many of its relatives is a very invasive plant to California, throwing its seeds with quarterback strength, sending down an impossibly deep taproot, and choking out native habitat. 

I talked to the woman that orders them.  It seemed she was reluctant to place the order, but too many people requested it to ignore the demand.  Apparently, the wholesale nursery claims this is a sterile variety (it's not actually Scotch Broom, but Sweet Broom or Genista spachiana).  And there my research begins...

apologies for the blurry phone photo

Here's a wonderful article from the SF Chronicle about planting invasive plants.  It mentions the sterile varieties of both Brooms and Pampas Grass have not been reliably tested and to not plant them as a precaution.  Hmmm. So maybe not as disastrous, but still not a good idea. 

That led me to the California Invasive Plant Council, which looks like a great resource and includes a number of brochures for various parts of California for the home gardener.  Makes me want to print a bunch of them out and tape them to those plants at CVS!  It looks like they also have a program to work with nurseries to help them find alternatives to invasive plants, called the Plant Right Campaign.  What a great idea! 

If folks are requesting these invasive plants, there needs to be just as many folks requesting that nurseries stop selling them.  Next time you see some suspicious characters masquerading as innocent garden plants, let the nursery-people know that you'd prefer they carry safer alternatives. 

And also, spread the word to your friends and neighbors who aren't plant geeks and volunteer with your local CNPS or habitat restoration group to help pull these suckers out of our wildlands. 


  1. I've seen broom for sale around here (Monterey) at "real" nurseries! Pathetic!

    Thanks for visiting my blog recently :)

  2. I just don't get the lack of concern people show - even people living in the wilderness areas - about the disastrous consequences of planting invasive plants. Cotoneaster and pampas grass as well as French broom and some Scotch broom, and vinca major, and English ivy - and more - are all over the Santa Cruz Mountains.

  3. Ivy is especially evil, but I think it's just a matter of education. If I didn't know better, I'd think Scotch Broom was a native plant since it's so prevalent in our local wildlands. I don't think many folks intentionally plant things they know will be invasive. At least I hope not!

  4. I saw some Broom for sale at the local Home Despot in 2008 and ended up calling the County Ag dept about it. Same story as yours: It's the "Sweet" hybrid and supposed to not spread. But the plant description says that it's great for naturalizing! So what should I believe?


  5. I've complained about the unkillableness of Bermuda grass and had people respond by asking me where they could buy some.

  6. 2/5/11

    Saw it for sale today at the new Lowe's on Bayshore. Should have asked them if they would guarantee it would not spread.

  7. That's the problem with large stores like that- I'm sure most if not all the staff know only what the tag on the plant says and nothing more. Yet another reason to support your local nursery and their better informed employees! Thanks for posting!

  8. I saw a large display of broom at my local Lowe's. I asked the manager (I think). She told me the state of California won't let them sell invasive plants.I didn't believe that for a minute, but I decided to look into what California does about invasive plants. They have a list of rated noxious plants, but no regulations, except for the importation of plants that might carry diseases or pests that would impact agriculture. I suspect CA is too invested in the nursery trade to regulate. Several other states outlaw the sale of Scotch broom and other invasive plants.

  9. Wow, has that woman ever seen running bamboo, vinca, or algerian ivy ever in her life? As the hills turn yellow, I've noticed this post is becoming very popular again. Yesterday I saw a garden newly planted with 2 broom plants and a lovely flowering Ceanothus. It makes me believe that education is all the more necessary for gardeners and gardening centers alike. Thanks for leaving your comment, M.L. Carle and thanks for doing your own research into this important topic!