Himalayan Balsam was introduced into the UK in 1839, presumably as an ornamental garden plant brought back by a Victorian plant collector. Despite being related to the Busy Lizzie it’s habit is quite different. It’s highly invasive and tends to take over damp ground, river banks and wasteland.
You can see the classic red stems and oval serrated leaves together with the light pink flowers make the plant quite an appeal to the avid collector. The seed pods are explosive, they can throw seeds over 20ft in all directions, and each plant has 800 seeds on average.
Balsam is shade tolerant, and has the tendency to shade out a lot of native plants, although the fireweed has given it a good run for its money on Countisbury and appears to be winning.
We were sometimes working in deep bracken on a steep slope, the balsam was still getting head and shoulders above even the tallest bracken.
This made finding it quite tricky on the ground, however it’s quite easy to spot in small bracken and grass, volunteers Fi, Tom and I managed to pull 5 wheelie bins full today.
Here they are hard at work next to the SWCP..
It’s also a cracking year for all types of fruit and berries, fill your boots while you can, we had to eat through handfuls of blackberries to get to the Balsam!