Himalayan Balsam (Impatiens glandulifera) was first introduced to the UK in 1839 by Victorian plant hunters. It has now become endemic in the UK. The species survives in many environments, allowing it to invade and outcompete other native species.
Himalayan Balsam is an annual flowering plant. It functions in this niche by growing taller and faster than native species. It often occurs in dense stands, completely shading the soil below. As no light can penetrate the Himalayan Balsam’s dense ‘canopy’, native species cannot photosynthesise and flourish. This can reduce the biodiversity in the ecosystem it occupies.
It also causes the collapse in native species through other mechanisms:
It produces up to 2000 seeds per plant. The seedpods distribute these seeds by ‘exploding’ when triggered. This happens through animals brushing against the flower’s triggering system. Another method is contact from neighbouring plants, blown against each other by aeolian (wind) processes. This enables a distribution of up to 7 meters from each seedpod.
The nectar rich flowers continue to bloom late into the season. This attracts pollinators such as bees. This may seem attractive, due to the current crisis with certain bee stocks. However, the process affects biodiversity by limiting the pollination of our native species.
As an annual species, no significant root system develops. This hastens soil erosion which is especially impactful on river banks. The eroding soil smothers invertebrates and damages fish breeding grounds. This impacts the ecosystems of these areas.
What Can Be Done?
As part of our scope, one aspect of the creation of The Great Glamorgan Way is to improve the green connectivity infrastructure along the route. This doesn’t only involve creating ‘Green Highways or Corridors. It also involves maintaining and improving the ecology along the proposed trail.
The Himalayan Balsam is a non-toxic, shallow rooting species. Therefore, the chink in its impressive growth cycle is that it is very easy to pull from the ground. If done correctly, this can have a major impact in successive growth cycles by destroying the plant before the seeds have ripened. As touched upon above, this species throws all its energy into growing quickly and vigorously, producing large quantities of seeds. As no bulb, rhizome or corm exists, the following year’s growth cannot exist without its predecessor producing viable seeds.
This is where you come in
This is where you come in. We as a team are organising volunteering days at sites at each of the five local authorities involved in the project. Part of this will be the control of Himalayan Balsam in areas that our team have identified. An activity known as ‘Balsam Bashing’ involves volunteers pulling and actively damaging each stalk, which prevents the plant from producing the seeds needed to continue its life cycle.
Dates and Locations
Listed below are the dates scheduled for Balsam bashing. Each event will start at 10:30am.
Garth Hill, Cardiff & Coed y Gedrys RCT – 10/06/2022
Treharris, Merthyr Tydfil – 21/06/2022
Trehafod, RCT – 22/06/2022
Hensol, VoG – 23/06/2022
Craig yr Aber Forest, Bridgend – 24/06/2022
If you would like to volunteer, please sign up to one of the events by emailing Rhodri Hewitt:
Register your interest and we will arrange for you to join our team at your chosen location.
Your help here is not only appreciated but will act as an important component in protecting and enhancing our native ecosystems and biodiversity.
Many Thanks from all the project team at The Great Glamorgan Way.