Himalayan Balsam – removing this intruder!

Preserving the environmental heritage of Bury St Edmunds and its beautiful water meadows can be a challenge, not least when the offending invader is the pretty pink plant known as Himalayan Balsam.

Himalayan Balsam

12 volunteers from the Bury Water Meadows group (BWMG) recently met in Holywater Meadows and The Butts to rid the River Linnet of this plant which has seeds that will explode up to 22 feet. A second weekend work party has now completed clearance of the Linnet and made a start at No Mans Meadows on clearing the Lark.

What is Himalayan Balsam?

Himalayan Balsam is a non-native species related to the Busy Lizzie and is the largest annual plant in the UK growing up to ten feet high. It looks very pretty and the bees love it but it can blot out many native plants and the bees will pollinate it in preference to native plants.  In the winter it completely dies down leaving bare earth where all the other vegetation has died out.

The team included river volunteers who have undergone safety training to work in river when needed.“We were advised that this is the best time of the year to remove this invasive plant before the seed pods explode and are carried downstream in the water.”

Although a substantial number of plants were found in some areas of the Linnet, overall Bury seems to be suffering less than other rivers and let’s hope it stays that way.

The initiative to remove Himalayan Balsam comes from the River Lark Catchment Partnership who aim to remove Himalayan Balsam from the Lark and its tributaries including the Linnet. The work is encouraged and supported by the Environment Agency who track the damage that both invasive plants and other invaders such as signal crayfish do to rivers including our own.

Now in its second year the River Lark Catchment Partnership is active in finding financial support for voluntary work on the Lark. Further river restoration and river-side planting in Bury is planned in the coming months, together with longer-term grants to support work by BWMG through the next financial year. For details of the BWMG, visit the web site http://www.bury-watermeadowsgroup.com/

Andrew Hinchley and Jillian Macready


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