Himalayan Balsam Alert

himalayan_balsam_cleanup150pxIssue date: 28th May 2012

Himalayan Balsam is an invasive plant (botanical name impatiens glandulifera) which was introduced to Britain in the mid 19th Century by Victorian gardeners. It is the tallest annual plant in the UK, growing to a height of over three metres. Himalayan Balsam is problematic because it crowds out native plants and can take over whole areas of river and canal bank. The seeds, up to 800 per plant, are released explosively from the seed pods and can travel for up to seven metres from the plant. If the seeds land in a stream, river or canal they will be taken downstream where they will start a new colony, which is one of the reasons this plant is so difficult to control. 

Over the last ten years this plant has become more established on many of our waterways. If you see it growing when you are out and about on the towpath this summer, please pull up the plants (if it is safe for you to do so) and put them on the side of the towpath to die back naturally.  If this can be done before the seed pods have developed, we will a few less plants next year.

Identification guide: In the spring the hollow stems are pinky red with green shiny leaves. The flowers appear in June and continue until October. These are purplish pink to very pale pink (almost white) and are slipper shaped on long stalks. View full size image of himalayan balsam.
Volunteering events are being arranged in June and July on certain waterways to tackle the problem before the plants flower and release seeds. The work parties involve cutting the plants back to ground level or pulling them up from the ground and creating compost piles.

If you are interested in getting involved in one of these events, or know of an area of waterway that would benefit from a Himalayan Balsam Bashing session, please contact Alison Smedley, IWA Branch Campaign Officer by emailing alison.smedley@waterways.org.uk.