Tackling the ‘alien invaders’ taking over the waterways in Newton Poppleford

PUBLISHED: 12:15 16 June 2018

Balsam pullers tackle the Himalayan menace

Balsam pullers tackle the Himalayan menace


It may look pretty but it’s a foreign invader and it’s causing havoc down on the riverbank. Balsam introduced by the Victorians prevents native plants from growing and contributes to erosion.

A team from Newton Poppleford have set aside five mornings over the next three months to root out the problem.

“It’s an alien species. But it’s only over the last 20 years that it’s become a serious issue,” said Ted Swan, organiser of the work party.

“Up until then it was just in people’s gardens but it suddenly took off all over the country.”

The plant (Impatiens glandulifera) comes from the Himalayas originally and was brought back by Victorian plant hunters looking for exotic species for their gardens. It grows up to two metres in height. The flowers are pink with a hooded shape. Once it gets established it is difficult to shift and swamps the biodiversity of the native species. It’s an annual and so dies back in winter. That leaves the riverbanks bare and prone to erosion by flooding.

It is important to weed the Balsam out before it seeds in late Summer. Each plant produces 700 seeds which is why it has the potential to spread so quickly.

Along with other groups at Tipton St John, Budleigh and the Tale Valley they have been working on the River Otter and its tributaries.

“It’s slow progress but it’s certainly much better than when we started a few years ago,” said Ted.

But as with all these volunteer activities there are never as many helpers as they would like.

“If we could double the number of people who come to pull the stuff it would make a big difference,” he said.

The group went weeding last Saturday with other days scheduled for June 30, July 28 and August 11, starting from the tennis courts car park at 9.30am. Full instructions are provided.

“The more help we can get the better. It’s not difficult work and in fact it can be quite good fun. All you need is a pair of wellies and strong gloves,” said Ted.

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