This week reserve staff have been removing Himalayan balsam from Logie Burn. As you can see from the photos it is quite a striking plant, which was why it was introduced to the UK as an ornamental garden plant in the 1830’s. People liked it so much that they purposefully distributed the seeds out in the wild. Like many introduced species Himalayan balsam has now become naturalised and can be found along water ways up and down the country.
Himalayan balsam can grow very tall (over 6ft) and forms impenetrable stands, which bloc out any native species. Luckily we just have the odd plant at Dinnet but these need to be removed every year to stop them taking over. Each plant can produce around 800 seeds so if you don’t pull them up before the seed pods explode they will spread quickly!
In addition to shading out native plants, Himalayan balsam is an annual plant so it leaves the river bank bare and open to erosion when it dies back each year. It also produces large amounts of nectar which may cause pollinators to favour it over native plants.
The flowers, seeds and leaves of Himalayan balsam are all edible (although the leaves must be cooked first). So why not help the removal effort and collect some seeds to add to a curry or put some added crunch to a cracker?
As with many things in modern life, if you want to help the battle against invasive plant species there is an app for that! Plant Tracker helps you to identify invasive species and submit geolocated photos wherever you find one. The data will then be used by The Center for Ecology and Hydrology, The Environment Agency and the University of Bristol to help tackle our invasive species problem. More information about the app can be found at http://planttracker.naturelocator.org/
Due to the shape of the flower Himalayan balsam is also known as a policeman’s helmet.
This small tortoiseshell and carder bee were seen feeding happily on the native thistles growing on Logie Burn banks near the Himalayan balsam.