Balsam Bashing Success

Charlotte Varela

It doesn't look all that scary, but Himalayan Balsam is a huge conservation problem which we are 'bashing' into shape at Brockholes.

Following a season of Balsam Bashing last summer, our reserve manager and conservation volunteers have noticed a massive reduction in the amount of Himalayan Balsam on site – a brilliant conservation win. This has allowed more native plant life to thrive at Brockholes.

While there is still balsam in some areas of the reserve, there is a significant reduction which means, hopefully, if we continue to reduce the growth at this rate, we may remove the species from Brockholes in the next few years.

Himalayan Balsam

Gillian Day

What is Himalayan Balsam?

Himalayan Balsam was introduced as a garden plant in 1839, but soon escaped and became widely naturalised along riverbanks and ditches, especially close to towns. It is fast-growing and spreads quickly, invading wet habitat at the expense of other, native flowers. Its explosive seed pods aid its spread by sending the seeds into the river, causing further dispersal downstream.

What is the problem with Balsam?

Each Himalayan Balsam plant can produce up to 800 seeds. These are dispersed widely as the ripe seedpods shoot their seeds up to 7m (22ft) away.

The plant is spread by two principal means;

The most widespread distribution tends to be by human means where individuals pass on seed to friends

Once established in the catchment of a river, the seeds, which can remain viable for two years, are transported further afield by water.

Balsam Bashing

Charlotte Varela

What is Balsam Bashing?

The main method of non-chemical control of balsam, and usually the most appropriate, is pulling or cutting the plants before they flower and set seed. Conservation authorities regularly organise ‘balsam bashing’ work parties to clear the weed from marshland and riverbanks.

How do you Balsam Bash?

Balsam Bashing is easy, and surprisingly mindful. Once you have recognised a piece of Himalayan Balsam, grab the stem as low down as you can, and give it a gentle, but forceful tug. You will find it comes out of the ground really easily, and brings the full root up with it.

Balsam Bashing

Charlotte Varela

Snap the root just above the lowest nobble, and leave in a pile on the ground. It’s really important to break the root, as otherwise it can re-root itself and start growing all over again. You can then just leave this on the ground as it will rot down.

We recommend wearing gloves, if you wanted to pull up some Balsam, as they tend to grow near nettles. To make sure you have the right plant, make sure you speak to a ranger or reserve officer before setting to - we don't want to be pulling up the wrong stuff!