Idaho to add scotch broom, maybe yew to noxious plants list

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Scotch broom has been added to the State of Idaho’s list of noxious plants.

The Idaho State Department of Agriculture will add all varieties of scotch broom to its list of noxious weeds, and is also considering rules on yew varieties as well.

According to a memo sent by the department, all varieties of broom genera are now included on the Idaho Noxious Weed list. The agency is also considering rules on Japanese, English and Chinese Yew varieties after the plants killed hundred of wild animals over the tough winter.

Jefferson County Noxious Weed and Invasive Species Director Mitch Whitmill said in an interview that scotch broom is not as successful in invading wild lands locally as it is in the panhandle region of the state.

“Because of our dry, arid climate, they don’t do well except in ornamental settings,” he said.

In Northern Idaho, the plant has escaped into the forests. It is also widespread in the State of Washington.

In his unofficial “windshield survey” of private land, he has seen maybe a few plants locally in people’s yards that might be scotch broom.

He added that the differences between the different species of broom are so subtle that the state has declared them all to be invasive.

“They’re very difficult to identify the subsets of the genus,” he said.

When it is added to the list, residents in Idaho will not be able to purchase the plant from local nurseries to add to their gardens.

Whitmill said he is personally opposed to adding yew to the state’s noxious plants list. He said that he believes that most of the time, the wildlife won’t eat it. This winter, however, was very severe leading animals to cross into private land to graze.

He believes that the animals will learn to avoid the ornamental plant.

“We’ve gone so many years without a severe winter that the lead elk that know what to eat during a sever winter have died,” he said.

Yew does not normally escape from people’s yards or grow well in wild lands. It is usually confined to people’s yards next to their homes.

Whitmill said he is not interested in monitoring what is growing in people’s yards.

In related news, Whitmill said he is hopeful that a bill to create a new director over invasive species and noxious weeds is signed by Gov. C.L. “Butch” Otter.

He explained that the new office would be below the governor and would be able to better coordinate cooperation with surrounding states and countries like Canada.

As of April 6, the bill had not been signed, among other bills, even though it was almost unanimously passed through both houses of legislature.

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