What is Himalayan Balsam?
Himalayan Balsam is a non-native, invasive plant which can be found along riverbanks and streams, as well as near ponds and lakes, and on derelict land. It first arrived in the UK in 1839 (shortly before Japanese Knotweed did), and was initially praised by Victorian gardeners for its ornate beauty.
Despite its attractive appearance, Himalayan Balsam is, just like Japanese Knotweed, considered a problem weed. Due to its size, growth rate and ability to thrive even in low light conditions, it often shadows other plants, starving them of light and eventually completely outgrowing them.
How Himalayan Balsam spreads
Himalayan Balsam can spread extremely rapidly thanks to the huge amount of seeds it can produce. These seeds are stored in fruit capsules at the top of the plant, which when mature or prodded explode, spreading them far into the air and over a wide area (up to seven metres).
How to identify Himalayan Balsam
Originally introduced as an ornamental plant by Victorian gardeners, Himalayan Balsam is an attractive plant; and the unique shape of its flowers has led to it earning the nicknames Policeman’s Helmet, as well as Touch-me-not Balsam.
Characteristics of Himalayan Balsam
- Himalayan Balsam is a large plant, normally reaching 1 to 2 metres in height, although in some cases it can grow as tall as 2.5 metres.
- The serrated leaves grow along the stem joints either in pairs or whorls of three.
- The green leaves are long and pointed and typically around 5 to 8 cm in length.
- You will also note the plant’s visible seed pods which explode when touched.
- The stems are green in the autumn and turn red towards the end of the year.
- Between June and October, Himalayan Balsam produces clusters of white, pink and purple flowers with five petals giving it a hooded appearance.
- The fruit capsules have an explosive opening action, firing seeds in all directions away from the plant.
- Initially, the seeds are brown and turn black as they mature.
Obligations if you have Himalayan Balsam
The speed at which Himalayan Balsam spreads, and the fact that it dies back completely in winter means it can dramatically increase erosion rates around waterways and potentially cause flooding.
Although there is no obligation to do anything about Himalayan Balsam on your property, Section 14 of the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 states that it is an offence in England and Wales to allow Himalayan Balsam to spread into the wild.
Himalayan Balsam removal
Although the roots of the Himalayan Balsam don’t go down as far as Japanese Knotweed, it can still be a difficult weed to get rid of. To ensure a complete eradication, we advise a chemical herbicide applied to the plant.
For help in identifying Himalayan Balsam, you can contact Japanese Knotweed Specialist. Send us a photo and we will provide you with a no-obligation analysis, so you can be sure what your weedy worry is.
For any help in removing Himalayan Balsam or Japanese Knotweed, please contact Japanese Knotweed Specialists.