What is the Himalayan Balsam | Green Leaf Remediation

What is the Himalayan Balsam (Impatiens glandulifera)?

Find out everything you need to know about management and control.

The Himalayan Balsam is easily the most invasive weed in the UK, aggressively taking over waste ground, river banks, damp woodlands, and any other surfaces it can thrive on. It’s one of the tallest annual plants and fiercely competes with other species for survival, winning the race for space, nutrients, light, and even pollinators. When it’s all said and done, the controlling Himalayan balsam has the potential to wipe out native plant species and affect biodiversity, proving to be a big problem to gardeners, farmers, landowners, environmentalists, and anybody who has it on their property. But how much do you know about this dangerous weed?

Green Leaf Remediation and Garden Services are experts in all types of invasive weeds in the UK and help you understand your best course of action. Contact us today at 0117 321 7799 or 07531 142316

Our informative article details the fundamentals of Himalayan Balsam and everything you should know.

What is the Himalayan Balsam?

The Himalayan Balsam (Impatiens glandulifera) is a herbaceous perennial and native species to the western Himalayas in India, Nepal, and Pakistan. It is also known as the “policeman’s helmet” due to its distinctive pink, hooded flowers. The plant was introduced to Europe in 1839 as an ornamental garden plant and has since become an invasive species in many parts of the world, including the United Kingdom, Canada, and parts of the United States.

What are the characteristics of Himalayan Balsam?

The invasive Himalayan Balsam can grow up to 3 meters tall and has long, green leaves that are oval in shape plus it has green seed pods. The plant produces many pink, hooded flowers that bloom from June to September. The Himalayan balsam flowers are followed by long, slender seed pods that explode when ripe, releasing hundreds of seeds up to 7 meters away. This characteristic gives the parent plant its other common name, “touch-me-not.”

What is the Himalayan Balsam’s preferred habitat?

The Himalayan Balsam prefers moist, shady areas and can grow along riverbanks, ditches, and damp woodlands. It is particularly well-suited to colonising disturbed areas, such as those created by human activity, and can outcompete native plant species. This is due to its ability to grow quickly, produce large numbers of seeds, and tolerate a wide range of environmental conditions.

Confused with the Jewelweed (Impatiens capensis)

Himalayan Balsam (Impatiens glandulifera) and Jewelweed (Impatiens capensis) are both members of the Impatiens genus, which is why they share many similarities in terms of their appearance. Both plants are annual herbs and have similarly shaped leaves and stems. The leaves of both plants are large, glossy, and typically arranged alternately on the stem.

Both plants have large, showy flowers that are typically pink, purple, or white in colour. The Himalayan Balsam and Jewelweed flowers are similar in shape and size, and they both have a characteristic “spur” at the back of the flower. The flowers of Jewelweed are typically slightly smaller than those of Himalayan Balsam.

The main difference between the two plants is their size and habitat. Himalayan Balsam can grow up to 3 metres tall, whereas Jewelweed typically grows to a height of ½ -1½ metres. Himalayan Balsam is an invasive species often found along riverbanks, ditches, and other damp areas. On the other hand, Jewelweed is native to North America and typically found in moist, wooded areas.

Himalayan BalsamWhy is Himalayan Balsam dangerous?

According to the wildlife and countryside act, Himalayan Balsam can be dangerous to farmers and gardeners for several reasons:
Rapid Spread: The plant can reproduce quickly and spread rapidly, making it difficult to control once established. This can lead to the plant taking over large farmland or gardens.
Competition: Himalayan Balsam can outcompete native plants, reducing the yield of crops and making it harder for gardeners to grow their desired plants. It’s one of the largest annual plants out there.

Pest Attraction: The plant attracts pests and diseases, which can further damage or destroy your crops.

Soil Erosion: Balsam has a shallow root system, which can lead to increased soil erosion, particularly on riverbanks or other areas of sloping land.

Control Cost: The control of this invasive species can be costly for farmers and gardeners, either by using chemical pesticides or manual labour to remove the plant.

Poisonous: The plant can cause skin irritation and allergic reactions.

Overall, the Himalayan Balsam can be a nuisance and a costly problem for farmers, land and property owners, and gardeners and can cause significant damage to crops and the environment if left unchecked.

How do you control the Himalayan Balsam?

There are several ways to control Himalayan Balsam. Some of the common methods you can attempt are:

Manual Removal

One effective method is to manually pull or cut the plants before they have a chance to produce seeds. This can be time-consuming but is effective in preventing the plant’s spread, especially before seed production.

Chemical Control (herbicides)

Chemical control involves using herbicides to kill the plants by spraying the foliage or applying the herbicide to the soil around the plant. The downside is that this can also harm non-target species and is not a long-term solution. You should always use a specialist who is knowledgeable and qualified for this method of control.

Biological Control (natural predators)

Another method is introducing natural predators, such as insects or fungi, that feed on Himalayan Balsam, which can also be an effective control method. One example is the leaf beetle, Chrysolina fastuosa, which feeds on the plant leaves and can reduce its growth and seed production.

In Summary

Himalayan Balsam is a destructive weed species that can be a massive headache to property owners. The best way to control it is to understand its habits and take action before it has the chance to establish itself. While an infestation can be difficult to eliminate, combining all control methods will help you slow it down and keep it off your property.

It is important to note that any control method should be used as per local laws and regulations and that multiple methods may need to be used in combination to effectively control the plant. Himalayan balsam is listed as a species of special concern under retained European Union (EU) law. This means it is an offence to plant or cause these plants to grow in the wild, or intentionally release them into the environment.

Green Leaf Remediation

We are a family-run and reputable weed control business in the South West.

Our Qualifications & Accreditations Include:

    • City & Guilds NPTC Level 2
    • Principles of Safe Handling & Application of Pesticides (PA1/PA6)
    • Principles of Safe Handling & Application of Pesticides near water (PA6AW)
    • Herbicide Stem-Injection
    • Property Care Association
    • The Control & Eradication of Japanese Knotweed Surveyor’s Training Course
    • Qualified Technician (PCAQT) in Japanese Knotweed
    • Accredited Surveyor in Japanese Knotweed

If you are worried you have Himalayan Balsam or any other invasive weed, including Japanese Knotweed at your property anywhere in the South West, contact us today at 0117 321 7799 or 07531 142316 and we can answer any questions you have or arrange a site visit as an industry and qualified expert in the South West.