1st October 2014

Himalayan Balsam, named from it’s native habitat, was brought into the country in 1839 as a decorative plant and is now on the notifiable plant list for invasive species (contact the Environment Agency or your local Wildlife Trust if you find any). A relative of

Himalayan Balsam along the River Don near Lady's Bridge

Himalayan Balsam along the River Don near Lady’s Bridge

Himalayan Balsam, showing the full, ripe seeds pods near to bursting

Himalayan Balsam, showing the full, ripe seeds pods near to bursting

A Bumble Bee feasting on the nectar of Himalayan Balsam, also called 'Policeman's Helmet' due to the shape of the flower.

A Bumble Bee feasting on the nectar of Himalayan Balsam, also called ‘Policeman’s Helmet’ due to the shape of the flower.

The arrows show the seeds being flung far and wide from an exploding seed-pod, blurred due to the speed of ejection.

The arrows show the seeds being flung far and wide from an exploding seed-pod, blurred due to the speed of ejection.

the Busy Lizzie, this giant (it can grow to 3 metres in height) is crowding out native species, especially along waterways. It is also known as ‘Policeman’s Helmet (due to the shape of it’s flowers), and ‘Jumping Jack’ or ‘Touch me not’, due to the explosive mechanism that ejects rapidly seeds from the seedpods when touched or really ripe (see the photo with the arrows- the seeds are too fast for me to catch clearly!). Around 800 seeds from each plant are sprung several metres, many then being carried by water to invade a new area of land. The only non-chemical control for this shallow-rooted plant is to cut the plant down or weed it out before it has a chance to set seed. As well as crowding out native species, the nectar-rich flowers tend to attract pollinators, especially Bumble Bees, away from native plants. The estimated bill for eradication is £300 million  so there is research afoot to find a biological control. In his research on Himalayan Balsam, Professor Ian Rotherham of Sheffield Hallam University has found that it is also spread deliberately by people who find it attractive! All parts of the plant are edible and the seedpods are said by Richard Mbey to taste nutty, though I don’t fancy it because, if you touch one, the smell is powerful and unpleasant, which is why I think it is called Touch-me-not! Conditions: A still, mild day of sun and cloud. Temperature: Max 17- Min 10C.

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