Himalayan Balsam

Common across the country, this invasive plant can cause problems with its exponential growth.

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Himalayan balsam (Inpatiens glandulifera) is a large annually growing plant that is native to the Himalayan mountains. Due to human introduction, it has now spread across much of the Northern Hemisphere. It was introduced to the UK in 1839 and is now a naturalised plant found mainly on riverbanks.

The invasive weed can tolerate low light levels and can ‘shade out’ other plants so that it will gradually kill them off due to a lack of light.

Himalayan Balsam: invasive weed

Each plant can produce up to 800 seeds in a year and this leads to Himalayan balsam spreading rapidly. The seeds can survive for up to 2 years without germinating if they are transported by water.

Growing in a dense cluster, Himalayan balsam prevents native plants from growing by starving them of sunlight and minerals. Due to its seasonal nature, Himalayan balsam can leave entire stretches of riverbanks bare during the winter, leaving the area more susceptible to land erosion.

What does Himalayan balsam look like?

Himalayan balsam will grow up to around 1-2m high and between roughly June and October, it will produce a cluster of purple/pink helmet-shaped flowers that has been compared to a policeman’s helmet. These flowers are followed by seedpods that will open and ‘explode’ when ripe and scatters the seeds up to 7 metres (23 feet) in all directions.

Pictures of Himalayan balsam

(click on images above for hi-res version)

Himalayan balsam legislation

Under the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 and the Wildlife and Environment (Scotland) Act 2011 it is an offence to introduce Himalayan balsam into the wild. Although you are allowed to have Himalayan balsam on your own land you cannot allow it to spread onto adjacent land. The landowner could take legal action against you.

Himalayan balsam removal

Any plant that out-competes more desirable plants is classed as a weed and requires control. There are two main methods of Himalayan balsam removal.

Spraying – Using herbicides is an extremely effective method to control Himalayan balsam. The herbicide used depends largely on the local environment and the timescale required removing the weed. If the Himalayan Balsam is near a water-course the use of chemical control may be impossible.

Manual – As Himalayan balsam is a shallow rooted plant it can be easily uprooted by hand. However, it is extremely important to exert caution as even the slightest contact with the plant can result in the dispersal of the seeds.

Contact a Himalayan balsam expert

If you suspect that you have Himalayan balsam on your land then contact Wise Knotweed Solutions today on freephone 0808 231 9218 or find your local branch.

Alternatively, you can contact the team using our contact form.

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