Saturday, 24 April 2010

Himalayan Balsam

When I was a kid I found this growing along the Wye in Herefordshire (, and got really frustrated as being an introduction it wasn't in my wild flower book. It's only since I got the allotment that I've realised what a dreadful weed it is; it spreads like mad in damp ground.

The one good thing is that the seeds are short-lived. It either comes up the following spring or not at all. I've been trying to exterminate up on the railway embankment above the site. There's definitely less than last year, but still far too much. A good frost would have exterminated it once it was up, but we didn't get one, and it doesn't look too likely at the moment. A dry summer could do it, as the embankment is far from being a good habitat for it. Otherwise, I'll be grubbing about again pulling out every one I can find, and this year I'll bag them so they can't set seed as they lie dying.


  1. Last year we uprooted some on a wide verge alongside a country lane a few miles from here. We think it had come in on a contractor's digger tyres as the ditch had recently been cleared and the plants were in the tyre tracks. I have my suspicions that this is a major means of spreading for the plant. Good luck with getting rid of yours. At least it isn't Japanese knotweed!

  2. Japanese knotweed is far harder to deal with once it get established. We've got it all round the site, spread, and probably introduced, by a former comittee member. The Council are dealing with it, and doing a good job, but it takes several years to get rid of a patch.

  3. Yes it is a bit of a thug, isn't it? Fun to play with when the seed pods are ripe, and a beautiful scent - but you just can't get rid of them.

  4. I hate the stuff too and it is busy trying to colonise west Cumbria. Last year, every time I walked along the banks of the Derwent near our home I uprooted as much of it as I could reach. Maybe the only good thing to come from the November floods is that section of riverbank was washed away ...

  5. Himalayan balsam seeds are edible and tasty. The leaves contains large quantities of lawsone, the pigment found in henna. It has (apparently) been grown as a green manure - cut before flowering. Food plant of the elephant hawk moth caterpillar.

    Japanese knotweed rhizome is a good source of resveratrol, the polyphenol in red wine which is credited with causing the French paradox .

    Even invasive alien plants have useful properties.