Himalayan Balsam or Impatiens glandulifera is a beautiful, bright pink flower of head height and above that you may have seen adorning the river banks of West Wales and beyond. It’s easy to see why the Victorians were keen to import this striking plant. Unfortunately, as was the way in that era, they didn’t give much thought to the knock-on consquences of introducing this non-native plant into our native ecosystem.
As it happens, Himalayan Balsam is a very efficient organism; it’s growth leading to the over-shading of other plants leading to their consequent demise. And as it’s latin name suggests, it is very eager to spread and has exploding seed pods (often further dispersed by the waterways they grow near) and unfortunately by humans passing seeds on to their friends.
Aside from shading out other plants, the large pink flowers are very attractive to bees which may lead to reduced pollination of our native flower species. In the winter months, the Himalayan Balsam dies back and with no other plants able to survive under it, it leaves a bare bank susceptible to erosion.
You can find an overview of the species from the Welsh Government here.
Conservationists all over England and Wales take part in Himalayan Balsam-bashing work-parties in a bid to remove the plant in the hope of reducing it’s detrimental impacts and overall population size. Here in West Wales our friends at the Carmarthenshire Fishermans Federation and a team of volunteers based in Llandysul, Ceredigion have been trying to tackle the problem on their patch.
Twenty helpers have come together so far in Llandysul Park to attempt nine balsam-pulling sessions over the summer led by Elaine Thomas on behalf of the West Wales Rivers Trust.
If you would like to help tackle the problem by joining Elaine’s team of balsam-bashing heroes, please email the Trust on firstname.lastname@example.org. You may also enjoy this recent episode of The Infinite Monkey Cage on Radio 4 all about invasive species like Himalayan Balsam.
Kathy James, Trust Development Officer.