Plea for volunteers to help tackle ‘alien invader’ in the River Otter

PUBLISHED: 17:00 30 July 2020

Clinton Devon Estates countryside learning officer Kate Ponting demonstrates how to recognise Himalayan Balsalm, pull it up and destroy it. Picture: Clinton Devon Estates

Clinton Devon Estates countryside learning officer Kate Ponting demonstrates how to recognise Himalayan Balsalm, pull it up and destroy it. Picture: Clinton Devon Estates

© Clinton Devon Estates

East Devon residents are being invited help take on an alien invader which is a major ongoing problem for the River Otter’s environment.

Clinton Devon Estates (CDE) is calling on people to help stop Himalayan Balsam from spreading in the River Otter.

The invasive plant spreads rapidly along watercourses and outcompetes other species, in some places removing all native vegetation.

When it dies back in winter, it leaves riverbanks bare and prone to erosion by flood water.

CDE, which looks after a section of the River Otter between Newton Poppleford and Ottermouth in Budleigh Salterton, is calling for more volunteers to help them get rid of the ‘alien’ invader.

Kate Ponting, countryside learning officer for CDE, explains: “Each plant produces 800-1500 seeds, which can be launched over several metres from explosive seed pods.

“The banks and flood plains here will always be susceptible to seed washing down from any upstream plants.

“Reaching well over head height, Himalayan Balsam towers over native wildflowers, competing for light and space and in many places restricts the view of our beautiful waterways.

“Luckily it is easy to manage and hand pulling is a very satisfying way to spend a couple of hours in the summer months.

“More volunteers means we can increase our reach, manage more and tackle new areas.”

Kate said the process of removing Himalayan Balsam is simple but effective.

She added: “It can be controlled by pulling out the whole plant by hand before the plants produce seed, leaving the stems to dry out.

“Pulling is hugely satisfying and easy for almost anyone.

“Although whatever we do won’t be enough to eradicate balsam just yet, if landowners and other organisations can co-ordinate and work together with dedicated volunteer teams, for this season and for many to come, then a balsam free view of the river in the future may just be possible.”

Anyone interested in joining efforts can get in touch Kate, who will partner them with their nearest volunteer group.

She can be contacted by email at kate.ponting@clintondevon.com.


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