The Vale of Glamorgan's Premier Lifestyle Magazine

Pretty Awful: Why Himalayan Balsam Isn’t Welcome In The Vale

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There’s no denying it, Himalayan Balsam (Impatiens Glanduliferais), a relative of the Busy Lizzie, is an attractive plant with pretty orchid-like flowers. However, it’s invasive and definitely not welcome in The Vale Of Glamorgan.

So what’s the problem?
It shouldn’t be in this country. It was introduced to the UK in 1839, probably by some well meaning botanist or collector who thought, quite understandably, that it’s orchid-like appearance would go down well with plant lovers. Himalayan Balsam is now a naturalised plant, found especially on riverbanks and in waste places where it has become a problem weed.

Himalayan Balsam really thrives in areas where light levels are low and it shades out other vegetation, gradually and insidiously killing off natural species until it takes over. Just today, I pulled a plant from the edge of a hay field near Pendoylan. I suspect a bird had deposited a seed there as there were no other plants nearby.

What does it look like?
Himalayan Balsam is a quite tall growing annual, sometimes up to 2-3m (6-10ft) in height. You’ll see them around between June and October and it produces clusters of purplish pink (or, rarely, white) helmet-shaped flowers. They do look similar to orchids I think. Once flowered, it produces seed pods that explode when ripe ejecting up to 800 seeds a considerable distance – sometimes up to twenty feet away.

So how do we control it?
I’m not a fan of pesticides. The best method is to pull the whole plant before it produces the seed pods. Grabbing the thick stem close to the root usually ensures it comes out whole. It can then be left to rot or, preferably, disposed of by burning (ensure you do this responsibly – always discuss with the Council).

Just this evening, after pulling the single plant in Pendoylan, I was driving back through Hensol Forest and there was a whole bank of them! It would take a good hour or so on my own to remove them. Perhaps I’ll go back with some green bags on the weekend. Anyway, keep an eye out and do what you can. If you see large clumps of it, please contact the Vale Of Glamorgan Council.

Do you love plants? Do you love gardening?
Dutch Garden Centre just off the M4 is a garden centre for gardeners. They are always helpful and have an excellent selection of quality annuals, trees and perennials.

Here’s a piece we did in City Life on them (click here).


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