General: Spanish Broom is a perennial, deciduous shrub which may live up to 30 years.
Flowers: Are yellow and pea-like. They occur at the end of the stem and are up to 3 cm long.
Stem: Are long, smooth, slender, cylindrical and erect with few branches.
Leaves: Are small, 1 – 2 cm long, oval and have smooth margins. Leaves only remain on the plant for 4 months or less, giving the plant a leafless appearance much of the year.
Fruits: Spanish Broom produces pea-like pods, 4 – 10 cm long. When mature, the pods are dark brown, covered in long, silky hairs, and contain 10 – 18 seeds.
Scotch Broom (Cytisus scorparius): This is another invasive Broom plant with yellow flowers. You can spot the difference by their stems: Spanish Broom stems are round, whereas Scotch Broom stems are ridged. Spanish Broom also flowers later in the year.
White Spanish Broom (Cytisus multiflorus): Another invasive Spanish Broom, which can be distinguished from the yellow Spanish Broom by its white flowers.
Habitat and Origin
Origin: Spanish Broom is native to Southern Europe and the Mediterranean basin, including North Africa, Turkey and the Middle East. It was introduced in North America as a garden ornamental and for erosion control.
Habitat: Spanish Broom has a very wide habitat. It grows in grasslands, woodlands, forest margins, coastal habitats and cliffs, ravines, riparian corridors and on disturbed sites such as roadsides, burned areas and cleared forests. Spanish Broom thrives in full sun and will grow in a wide variety of soils, such as poor, dry and stony limestone soils, clays, loams and even soils with a high salt concentration. It is the most drought-tolerant of the brooms.
Propagation & Vectors of Spread
Spanish Broom reproduces by seed. One plant can produce up to 10,000 seeds in a season, and the seeds remain viable in the soil for up to 30 years.
Spanish Broom seeds, which are covered in white, silky hairs, typically fall near the parent plant and are subsequently moved by wind, rainfall, floods, water or possibly ants. Seeds can also be dispersed as a soil contaminant.
Ecological and Health Impacts
- Outcompetes and displaces native species.
- Impedes the movement of wildlife.
- Increases fuel load for wildfires.
- Reduces grazing potential.
- Can fix nitrogen in the soil, which increases soil fertility and gives a competitive advantage to other non-native weeds that thrive on high nitrogen levels.
- Seeds and other plant parts are toxic to humans, horses and livestock.
What Can I Do?
Spanish Broom is not yet found in the Sea to Sky Region, so PREVENTION is key.
Learn to identify Spanish Broom: use the images presented in this profile page to learn how to identify this plant.
What to do if you spot it: You can report any sighting by clicking here.
- Regularly monitor properties for infestations.
- Avoid planting Spanish Broom
- Ensure soil and gravel are uncontaminated before transport
- Remove plant material from any equipment, vehicles, or clothing used in infested areas and wash equipment and vehicles at designated cleaning sites before leaving these areas.
- Minimize soil disturbances (e.g. use grazing plans that prevent soil exposure from overgrazing), and use seed mixes with dense, early colonization (e.g. alfalfa or barley) to re-vegetate exposed soil and resist invasion.
- Ensure plants (particularly flowering heads or root fragments) are bagged or covered to prevent spread during transport to designated disposal sites (e.g. landfill).
- Don’t unload, park, or store equipment or vehicles in infested areas; remove plant material from any equipment, vehicles, or clothing used in such areas, and wash equipment and vehicles before leaving infested areas.
- Do not plant Spanish Broom, no matter how well-contained the area might seem.
- DO NOT COMPOST!
- Hand-pull small infestations. Care must be taken to extract the entire root; otherwise stump sprouting is likely to occur.
- For larger plants, cut shrubs at ground level and consider applying herbicide to the stump to prevent regrowth.
- Limit soil disturbance, as this can stimulate the seedbank.
- Plants should be removed before they flower to limit seed production.
- Triclopyr, 2,4-D and glyphosate can be used on Spanish Broom.
- Picloram is also effective, but it is not suitable for wet coastal soils.
- Treatments should be repeated to control late-germinating plants and re-sprouting.
- We recommend that any herbicide application is carried out by a person holding a valid BC Pesticide Applicator Certificate. Before selecting and applying herbicides, you must review and follow herbicide labels and application rates; municipal, regional, provincial and federal laws and regulations; species-specific treatment recommendations, and site-specific goals and objectives.
- Grazing is not considered an effective control option, as Spanish Broom is mildly toxic and unpalatable to livestock, except goats.
- Goats, when confined to a small area, can help control re-sprouting after a mechanical treatment.
- Biological agents are currently not available in Canada for this species.
- Bugwood.org, Spartium junceum, https://wiki.bugwood.org/Spartium_junceum
- CABI, Spartium junceum, https://www.cabi.org/isc/datasheet/51145
- Northwest Weed Control Board, Best Management Practices for Spanish Broom, https://www.nwcb.wa.gov/images/weeds/Spanish-Broom-Control_King.pdf
- UC Davis, Spanish Broom, https://wric.ucdavis.edu/information/natural%20areas/wr_S/Spartium.pdf
- University of California Agricultural & Natural Resources, Brooms Management Guidelines, http://ipm.ucanr.edu/PMG/PESTNOTES/pn74147.html