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Himalayan Balsam

  • September 15, 2015 12:24 PM BST

    I was wondering if any other members have had experience of tackling Himalayan Balsam at stations?

    The Looe Valley has been completely over-run by this invasive plant, and we have had some success at one station by systematically pulling up the roots in the winter when it has died back. However, it still manages to come back every year and is spreading.

    I was recently in the Brecon Beacons and noticed it is also taking hold in this area as well.

    Any advice, top tips very welcome!

    • 4 posts
    September 24, 2015 11:21 AM BST

    Himalayan Balsam is an annual plant and the best way to control it is to remove the adult flower heads before they set to seed. This will need to be done over a period of at least two years to ensure eradication. The main problem on the rail network is th...  moreHimalayan Balsam is an annual plant and the best way to control it is to remove the adult flower heads before they set to seed. This will need to be done over a period of at least two years to ensure eradication. The main problem on the rail network is that seeds from other plants can (and do) blow down the track when trains pass and this makes it a never ending and very frustrating problem.

  • September 24, 2015 4:24 PM BST

    Thanks Simon. 

    In the past we have removed in the winter after it has flowered but we'll have to try and get rid of it in bloom before the seed pods develop..which i guess will be the spring/early summer.


    • 1 posts
    September 28, 2015 3:03 PM BST

     A good way to keep invasive species or weeds at bay is to spread rock salt over the soil after you have cut everything down. Only use this method though if you want to kill everything as it takes along time for salty soil to return to normal for growing plants. It's also a good way to prevent weeds from growing at the edge of pavements next to kerbs.

    • 8 posts
    September 29, 2015 4:33 PM BST

    We use the cheapest Biological Washing Powder we can buy on our paths at Hindley and find it very successful as it also cleans them.  Just sprinkle it on direct from the packet and either spray with water or sprinkle when rain in due and it does the job keeping it weed free, we had a particular problem with 'mares tails' and it cleared them no problem.

    This post was edited by Sheila Davidson at September 29, 2015 4:35 PM BST
    • 22 posts
    October 4, 2015 11:51 AM BST

    Here in Mytholmroyd we have a local council environmental officer who make occasional visits; balsam is rampant in this area but Calderdale have introduced something into the plants that will reduce their size, eventually. Not too sure of the details but will find out and re-post; have to say this year plants look smaller.

    • 24 posts
    October 4, 2015 10:00 PM BST

    A bit of a wild card to add to the discussion - I went on a nature walk today and the walk leader was recommending a recently published book called "The New Wild". It argues that we should take a completely different perspective on invasive species like Himalayan Balsam, and that we should work with rather than against them. I'm certainly no expert, but could be an interesting read...

    • 22 posts
    October 5, 2015 9:45 AM BST

    Thanks for this,Mike. I do remember  some of the conversation I had with our man and his explanation was on similar lines -'the balsam gets smaller and with weaker stems and will be seen as a pretty wild flower' But will check with him to be sure of my facts. And the book looks interesting. Cheers.


    • 22 posts
    October 5, 2015 1:44 PM BST

    Back again; have just spoken to Dave Wilson, Environmental Officer of Calderdale; the recent scheme here is definitely experimental and not sure if it will work, but some diseased balsam, infected with a type of rust which is fungal in nature have been planted; the theory is that the fungal spores will spread (up to 30 kms annually) and infect other balsam to render them smaller, weaker and therefore less invasive. But he stressed it is early days and may not suceed. He suggests strimming the plants, close to the roots, close to the ground before seeds have been set, and just leave the plants to rot down. My observation here at Mytholmroyd is that the growth does seem to be weaker, the plants not so tall; but might be wishful thinking.

  • October 13, 2015 11:40 AM BST

    On a more positve note my bees made quite delicious honey from feeding on the balsam!

    • 1 posts
    October 13, 2015 3:05 PM BST

    Unless it is actually in the way - for instance overhanging paths, i am not sure why there is a need to get rid of HB at all. Introduced to Britain as a garden plant in 1839, it is our fastest growing annual with beautiful flowers and explosive seed pods loved by children. There is a good display at Marple station where everything else has finished flowering. The Environment Agency hate it, and there is a fairly hysterical charge-sheet, but I've looked at the scientific papers behind them, and there isn't any real evidence that HB affects native species, bees, erosion or anything else. It tends to colonise disturbed and high-nutrient habitats that are poor for other plants and animals anyway.

    If you click this link I've put a bit more information: Enjoy your HB!


  • October 13, 2015 3:28 PM BST

    HI Peter,

    Thanks for that. It's good to have a different angle and I agree it does look nice so it's good to hear that there may not be any evidence for the negative impact on native species. Maybe we should just live and let live.. which can't be a bad motto for life!

    • 22 posts
    October 13, 2015 3:47 PM BST

    Hello to Pete and Rebecca and Robert - thank you all for the positive opinions re HB.

    So many different aspects to HB - just like politics!Don't tell me Japanese Knotweed is OK as well.

    Nature can be very confusing - everything looks so attractive in the wild and your views give me comfort when I see our railway embankments stretching out as a mass of pink flowering giants for miles on end, no need to worry!