Himalayan Balsam Removal
Not sure how to get rid of Himalayan Balsam? We're here to help with advice and cost-effective Himalayan Balsam removal & treatment methods for residential and commercial sites.
According to the NNSS (GB Non-native species secretariat), the negative impact of Himalayan Balsam isn't negligible: “Having become dominant in its invaded habitat, the shallow root system can promote erosion during the annual cycle through dieback and subsequent destruction of bankside structure. Dense stands can impede water flow at times of high rainfall, thereby increasing the likelihood of flooding.”
Himalayan balsam is a non-native invasive terrestrial plant species. The species is particularly frequent along the banks of watercourses, where it often forms continuous stands. Individual plants reach 2m in height, have translucent fleshy stems, pink-purple slipper-shaped flowers and large oval pointed leaves. Plants produce large numbers of flowers which are followed by 'seed pods' about 25mm long. When mature and dry, they split open explosively, dispersing the seeds a considerable distance from the parent plant. Each plant can produce about 2,500 seeds which fall to the ground, and with several parent plants close together, seeds can occur at a density of between 5000-6000 seeds per square metre, with plants quickly outcompeting the native flora. The seeds also float, making watercourses a prime route for dispersal of the species.
The fact that seeds are easily transported along watercourses makes control of the species particularly difficult. This is because although a landowner may be controlling plants on their property, if the same doesn't happen upstream then recontamination of the site is almost inevitable. Seeds can remain viable for 18 months, so a three-year herbicide treatment programme is usually required as a minimum starting point to control the established plants on the site, with annual monitoring following on from that.
If you're tempted to treat it yourself, consider these points:
- Most people attempting a DIY solution will fail, because they lack the thorough approach required for success.
- Application of herbicides next to water requires permission from the Environment Agency, and you must be suitably qualified to do so.
- Damage to other prized plants may be caused by poor herbicide application.
- Once removed, you will also need to understand how to dispose of Himalayan Balsam, as it is considered controlled waste, with a disposal process in accordance with the law.
What does Himalayan Balsam look like?
Use our extensive guide to identify Himalayan BalsamIdentify Himalayan Balsam
- Pulling - This method is suited only to small or sporadic infestations and is particularly useful where the habitat is vulnerable or of special scientific interest. Individual plants are hand-pulled from the ground just before flowering in spring / early summer. They are then removed from site to be disposed of as controlled waste in accordance with the Environmental Protection Act 1990.
- Herbicide Treatment - For large stands, a two-year herbicide treatment programme can be used.
- Cutting - It is possible to cut back Himalayan to just above ground level before it flowers, which prevents flowering and seeds forming. As Himalayan Balsam is an annual plant, it will not grow back from the roots the following year.
Each method needs to be carried out for a minimum of two growing seasons to ensure all viable seeds have germinated and can be tackled. In situations where balsam is present upstream from the affected land, an annual monitoring programme is recommended to ensure the population does not re-establish from reintroduced seeds that have floated downstream.
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