WHAT IS HIMALAYAN BALSAM?
Himalayan Balsam, otherwise known as Impatiens glandulifera is a relative of the busy Lizzie, but has a much more aggressive growth rate, reaching heights of up to 3 meters. This invasive plant was introduced into the UK in 1839 from Northern India and has become problematic especially in riverbank locations. The Himalayan Balsam tolerates low levels of light and shades other plants, smothering and killing them off. The plant also produces a high level of pollen which attracts bees away from other native plants causing further disruption to more welcomed plants as they restrict their ability to survive.
Other than riverbanks the plant can be found in gardens where it has been deliberately grown. It is strongly advised against planting such plants, however, if this is the case such plant must be kept under control and not spread into the wild.
WHAT DOES IT LOOK LIKE?
Himalayan Balsam is a tall plant growing as high as 2 to 3 meters. Between the months of June and October the plant produces a cluster of purplish pink (or sometimes white) helmet-shaped flowers. The flowers are then followed by seed pods that open explosively when ripe, catapulting the seeds up to 7 meters away from the plant.
WHY IS THIS PLANT SO BAD?
This invasive plant is classed as such due to its aggressive rate of growth and its ability to take over areas smothering native plants. Its ability to disperse its seeds so widely does create an accelerated spread of the plant. As the seeds are viable for up to two years, they are then often spread via flowing water such as rivers which can then allow the spread of the plant to expand to greater distances. Other issues that cause the plant to spread are when people pass the seeds on so friends and family are then able to plant Himalayan Balsam in their own gardens.
HOW TO CONTROL THIS PLANT
Himalayan Balsam is able to be controlled by cutting it below the lowest node or shoot on the stalk, or alternatively the plant can be pulled or uprooted as it grows. Both courses of action should be continued up until late November to ensure the compete eradication of the plant. If this is not possible, then weedkiller control is an alternative option. It is advised to choose a weedkiller that is most appropriate for the purpose by reading the label carefully before purchasing or using. Before using weedkillers alongside waterways it is necessary to contact the Environmental Agency to advise on the appropriate products and methods to use.
THE LAW ON INVASIVE NON-NATIVE PLANTS
It is an offence to grow or dump invasive plants in local streams or woodlands under Schedule 9 of the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981. The government prohibits the sale of such species and anyone caught doing so will face a government implemented penalty. Note that growing controlled plants is considered to be a criminal offence which carries a fine of up to £5,000 and/or 2 years of imprisonment.
Because of the law, people are encouraged to follow strict guidelines to help eradicate these plant species. The formation of the Global Invasive Species Programme in 1997, conceptualised strategies on how to eradicate them which was published in 2001.
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