A Sidmouth-based horticultural group is calling on residents to don their wellies and help ‘bash the balsam’ before the invasive weed spreads to more areas of the town.

Lynette Talbot, chairman of Sidmouth in Bloom, says she hopes to recruit a team of ‘Sid Bashers’ to tackle with the growing problem of Himalayan balsam in wet areas in the north of the town.

The weed, which is recognisable by its distinctive pink flowers, can grow up to 10 feet tall, spreads quickly and easily shades out other native species.

Each plant can produce up to 800 seeds and Sidmouth in Bloom hopes to eradicate as much of the weed as possible before it seeds again next year.

Lynette said: “During the high flooding period, the seeds travelled down the river and greatly infested all the wet areas.

“Once it seeds you are fighting a losing battle, so over the next few weeks we want to organise some teams to go down the Woolbrook.

“It’s actually a very attractive plant - it’s just in the wrong country.”

Lynette said the task would be more suitable to older teenagers and adults as the weed can be difficult to remove and it tends to grow in wet areas and around rivers.

The effort comes after government officials recently announced plans to expand the scope of anti-social behaviour laws to give local councils and the police powers to fine householders for failing to control invasive species like Himalayan balsam.

The new powers, announced by the Home Office, would ‘force homeowners to take steps to rectify the behaviour that is having a detrimental effect on the quality of life in the community’ – and failure to do so could be punished with a fine of up to £2,500.

And although the Anti-social Behaviour, Crime and Policing Act 2014 does not explicitly refer to Himalayan balsam, officials say that the new rules are intended to be flexible enough to include it and other invasive non-native plants like Japanese knotweed.

Lynette added: “We hope that people with it growing on their property will look at trying to eradicate it.

“But of course some of it is on land which is owned by Devon highways or the council.”

Anyone interested in helping with the weed removal effort can contact Lynette on 01395 518081 or Cheryl Allen on 01395 577711.