sThis is the right time of year to head out on the banks of your local river and find some Himalayan balsam. This invasive plant species uses watercourses as a transport corridor for seeds, so you will find them lining the banks of rivers big and small. When these plants are ready to disperse their seed, they propel their load away from the plant – especially when they are disturbed and perceive danger – and can fire hundreds of seeds several meters away. This all means that when you are trying to tackle this plant it is good to do so early so you don’t disturb the plant, and they don’t have a chance to set seed.
With this in mind we have been out a few times to tackle the plant in June and early July to try and minimise the spread of the plant and how many will seed. This requires quite a few people, but it can also be done very easily by simply pulling out the plant as you would any other weed. The plant itself has shallow roots but it quite thick stemmed as it can grow extremely tall, especially when it is out in the open. The growth rate of the plant can vary dramatically, with huge size differences between individuals within an area. (Check out the images below that show the size differences in plants and see if you can spot the balsam amongst the other vegetation!)
It can also be tricky to get to some of the places where this plant is located; steep banks, undercut banks and in amongst nettles or other invasive species is where you may find them. With that in mind though, our volunteers have dedicated their time and considerable effort to tackling this plant. They have waded through vegetation and clambered up and down banks to try and reach all the Himalayan Balsam they can find. We are grateful for the help, and to be able to impart knowledge on the impacts of the plant and the identifying features which will help them to spot it elsewhere. We also hope that the knowledge will spread, and people will be able to tackle other areas along rivers to try and help reduce the spread.