Himalayan balsam

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Every hour enough plastic to fill two bin bags is washed into our oceans from canals and rivers.

Despite its soothing name, this densely growing pink and red-stemmed weed stifles any native grasses and plants in its path.

Himalayan Balsam with purple flowers on both banks of narrow waterway Himalayan Balsam, copyright GBNNS

Its seed pods explode open when ripe and can shoot seeds up to seven metres away – with each plant able to produce around 800 seeds, it’s no wonder this plant dominates certain areas.

It doesn’t need much light itself and will grow in a wide range of habitats. However, this weed tends to shade out other plants and when it dies back in autumn its destructive legacy lives on; as it leaves waterway banks vulnerable to erosion.

It is actually quite easy to control, using a method called balsam bashing. This basically means pulling the shallow rooted plant up before it flowers in June. This can eradicate the plant from an area within a few years.

However, the plant is so widely spread it is a daunting task in many locations. It can also easily spread from adjacent land and down waterways through its prolific seed production.

Last date edited: 15 March 2018