Payback time for invasive Himalayan Balsam as scheme weeds out plant
It looks innocuous enough, with its pretty pale pink flowers, delicate leaves and long straight stems.
But Himalayan Balsam is one of the most devastating invasive plants in the English countryside and it is almost certainly coming to a damp patch of ground or a riverbank near you.
The fast-growing non-native weed that can choke waterways in no time and shade out other less vigorous plants is currently public enemy number one in the plant world.
Tackling it has been variously undertaken by volunteer groups, the Royal Marines and members of wildlife conservation bodies.
NEW IN : for those cold winter nights highland check dog and cat beds in stock, fleecy and washable ideal for those nights snuggling by the fire...... available in 3 colourways
Contact: 01271 440626
Valid until: Saturday, January 25 2014
Recently an officer from the Environment Agency joined up with the Probation Service's Community Payback Scheme to remove the plant which is threatening the natural environment around a pond at Bridport.
The Himalayan balsam grows up to 10ft (3m) tall and has colonised large areas beside rivers and woods throughout Britain, smothering any indigenous plants.
The weed pulling initiative in Dorset is part of an environment improvement scheme at Gundry weir on the River Brit, where the Environment Agency is working to install a fish pass.
Roger Genge, from the Environment Agency, worked with the scheme which allows people to do community service as opposed to serving a prison sentence or paying a large fine, to remove large, dense patches of Himalayan Balsam that are colonising the area.
Where it has colonised, it is out-competing the native plant species.
Himalayan balsam (also known as Indian balsam) originates from Asia, and was introduced as a garden plant in the UK in the early 19th century as a greenhouse and warm garden plant and, within a few decades, had escaped into the wild.
It gradually established bridgeheads, and then, especially after the Second World War, it spread rapidly.
Once growing, Himalayan balsam can proliferate at a fearsome rate. Each plant produces an average of approximately 800 seeds, which means that a dense mass of the plants can contain a potential 30,000 seeds per square metres and its exploding seedpods can scatter seeds up to 7m away.
It can grow to more than three metres in height and can out-compete and overshadow native plants which die from lack of light.
In the UK, Himalayan Balsam has already spread at a rate of 645 sq km per year.
Mr Genge said: "The team removed large sections of Himalayan Balsam from this site, but our aim is to have the whole site clear.
"The team worked really hard to remove the invasive species and considerably contributed to improving the environment in the area."
For more information about invasive species please visit www.nonnativespecies.org