A group of volunteers many from Halesworth Greens including our councillor Annette Dunning, worked two hot Saturdays in July to pull the Himalayan Balsam along the Town River.
We had to act now – for if allowed to flourish each plant can produce up to 300 seeds which can shoot up to 7 metres from the host plant. It is not without reason it is known commonly as Jumping Jack plant or Policeman’s Helmet.
While it is plant much loved by some insects, if left to it’s own devises, ie letting nature take its course, it will eventually over power local indigenous species. We will never eradicate it, but our pull will encourage diversity. I’d like to find something good to say about this invasive weed, but I’m struggling. Bees love it, it’s true, but only the more common honey and bumblebees. It’s no good at all for solitary bees, which rely on a patchwork of understorey plants for their nectar through the season. The balsam flowers in one great flush, shades out other plants very efficiently, reduces biodiversity and weakens the soil.
The key to success is pull along whole river stretch from the most upstream bits of balsam. Suffolk Wildlife Trust advised us and gave us hope – the work they had done persistently over the last 10 years had been effective: but we must pull each year.
With the backing of a Risk Assessment, the team of volunteers was led by Aubrey. We worked in groups of 3-4, 2 hours before the sun became too hot. The work was not arduous and surprisingly satisfying – the plant pulled easily. We were advised to leave it along the river bank, to allow any wildlife to find its way to the river, and allow the plant to disintegrate naturally – it is mainly water.
It has an extraordinary root structure.
It is illegal to plant or cause Himalayan Balsam to grow in the wild in the UK, as stated by the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981.
The document which describes the background is here