Himalayan Balsam Season

Issue date: 16th May 2013

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 crowds out native plants and can take over whole areas of river and canal bank.

The best time to tackle the problem is in June and July, before the plants flower and release seeds. 

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.

Boaters and Walkers can help contain the problem by pulling up the plants before the seed pods have developed (if safe to do so) and leave them on the side of the towpath to rot down. It's important to report any locations of Himalayan Balsam to your local waterway office and ensure you don’t accidentally carry the seeds to a new area (eg on the bottom of your shoes or on the deck of a boat).

On certain waterways volunteering events are being organised by IWA branches and other local groups to tackle the problem.  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, 01538 385388 or Stefanie Preston, 01494 783453.

Photos by Erica Martin and Alison Smedley