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Field Notes

Covering the natural wonders of the Pacific Northwest

May 6, 2013 at 3:45 PM

Ridding Hope Island of the wiley invader Scot’s broom

We arrived by boat, puttering along through the jade swell of Puget Sound to Hope Island, part of Deception Pass State Park. And there we met the enemy: Scot’s broom.

enemy

A pernicious invasive weed, there it was, waving its cheery yellow blooms. We volunteers had convened for a little mano a mano with the mighty broom. Our mission: dig, cut, pull and otherwise destroy as much of it as we could in our time on the island.

Captaining our brave little skiff loaded down with loppers, clippers, and choppers of every sort, was Jack Hartt, manager for Deception Pass State Park. The busiest in the state, it was no small matter for him to take a day from the rest of his duties to ferry us out to the island. But this was critical work.

Ten years ago, the meadows that dot the south end of this lovely natural preserve were overrun with Scot’s  broom, also called Scotch broom. “It was old growth,” Hartt said, noting it stood higher than his head, and had completely smothered any native wild flowers that should be in the meadow.

What a difference devoted work by volunteers makes. When we arrived Saturday, sure, there was still plenty of Scot’s broom. But in the meadow we tackled, it was mostly small, and we made a good dent in it, pulling the stuff out by the roots, chopping it off at ground level, doing whatever it took to prevent it from setting another round of seeds.

A volunteer tackles Scot's broom on Hope Island. Note the pile of pulled broom on the ground. Lynda Mapes photo

A volunteer tackles Scot’s broom on Hope Island. Note the pile of pulled broom on the ground. Lynda Mapes photo

Those seeds are part of the broom’s incredibly effective endurance strategy. The seeds can remain viable for decades. Not only that, but in the summer heat, the plant’s seed pods (it is in the legume family) burst open, throwing the seeds far and wide.

But persistence can win the battle. As we worked, we were surrounded by the nodding blooms of chocolate lily, the creamy white blossoms of death camas, deep blue of camas, and bright pink of sea blush. The meadow’s native grasses were lush and green, giving way to views of the blue waters of Puget Sound beyond.

Hope Island, a bit of paradise in Puget Sound.Photo by Douglas MacDonald

Hope Island, a bit of paradise in Puget Sound. Photo by Douglas MacDonald

An eagle circled us, then swooped out over the water. Below, cruising just at the surface of the water, a seal swam gracefully, just looking around a bit, before diving and disappearing into the green depths.

Hope Island has never been developed, and a trip to this park is a good way to reset the visual baseline of what West Side forests used to look like in Puget Sound. While it was logged in places, stands of old growth fir abide. The bark on these massive firs, 400 years old and more, is thick as armor.

Yet the outside world manages to intrude. Seeds of invasive weeds arrive on the boots of hikers, and are carried by birds and the wind. But pull the weeds and the native plants do come back.

Native wildflowers make a comeback in a meadow on Hope Island where volunteers have cleared away Scot's broom.   The pink is sea blush, the white is death camas. Lynda Mapes photo

Native wildflowers make a comeback in a meadow on Hope Island, where volunteers have cleared away Scot’s broom.
The pink is sea blush, the white is death camas. Lynda Mapes photo

The deep purple blue of camas is slowly making its way back as volunteers remove invasive Scot's broom.  Lynda Mapes photo

The deep purple blue of camas is slowly making its way back as volunteers remove invasive Scot’s broom.
Lynda Mapes photo

The island could use more volunteer work parties. If you’ve got a boat and an interest, head on out. The island even has five campsites, if you get motivated to dig in, so to speak. Better yet, take some friends and make a day of it.

Don’t forget your Discover Pass and if you want to camp, make a reservation.

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