South East Rivers Trust (& the Wandle Trust)

Hunting Himalayan Balsam!

Can you help us defeat Himalayan balsam with your household this Invasive Species Week?

This week is Invasive Species Week and it’s also the season we’d usually be out with our volunteers bashing some Himalayan balsam.

This problematic plant is a big issue along many of the UK’s rivers. It out-competes native vegetation, leads to increased bank erosion and with each plant producing 800 – 2000 seeds, it can spread and take over an area extremely quickly.

Unfortunately, Covid-19 has scuppered this year’s volunteer balsam bashing events. Without control, the plant will continue to grow and spread, undoing the good work our volunteers have achieved over the last few years.

You can help us!

From now until the end of June, we’d like you to help us get rid of Himalayan balsam. It’s a fun activity for the whole family and can be done along any riverbank where you find the plant.

Here’s how to identify Himalayan balsam:

  1. It has elongated, slightly serrated leaves, a reddish stem and pink, 2-lobed flowers.
  2. If you pinch the stem of the plant it’s easily crushed as it’s hollow and very watery.
  3. If you give the plant a gentle pull, it should come up easily as it has very shallow roots. If it’s hard work to uproot – it’s not Himalayan balsam.

Once you find a patch:

  1. Don your gloves and pull up any plants you see
  2. Snap each stem just above the roots
  3. Pile up your spoils away from the river and in some undergrowth and leave them to decompose

While you may see more of it in more difficult places, please do not enter the river under any circumstances.

From the end of June, balsam plants will begin to form seed pods. Once the seed pods are present the balsam bashing season ends as you’re likely to do more harm than good by disturbing the pods and distributing the seeds. If a plant has seed pods – don’t go near it.

Save the image below to your phone, or print it out, as a reminder while you’re out walking along your local river over the next month!

Please take care when working by rivers as the ground can be uneven. Wear closed-toed shoes, gloves, long sleeves and trousers to protect yourself from scratches and stings.

In the current situation, please only bash balsam away from busy areas like riverside trails and ensure you can keep 2 metres away from passers-by.

Happy balsam bashing everyone!