In the past few months, a new plant species has been growing up to 10ft tall and has colonised large areas throughout Britain, including rivers and woods. This plant is called the « Himalayan balsam » and is a real pain for the Environment Agency, Plantlife and Wildlife Trust and its removal could cost more than £300m.
This pink orchid-like flower is considered an alien plant, because it is invading the country very quickly. One of the reasons of the rapid spreading of this flower is due to the fact that people love it and scatter its seeds in the wild. Once grown, Himalayan Balsam can proliferate at a fearsome rate, each plant producing an average of 800 seeds.
The plant was introduced in the UK in 1839 as a greenhouse and warm garden plant and spread rapidly, especially after the Second World War. Nowadays, you won’t find any spot free of this pretty threat. The species proliferation is so wide near Liverpoolthat people now call it « Mersey weed ».
Every summer weekend, cleaning parties are organised by conservationists. This month, the Royal Marines have been called in to try to eradicate it. A top laboratory is also working on a biological « secret weapon » to destroy it. Cabi World renowned (science-based organizations) have found a rust fungus which only attacks Himalayan balsam and no other species. Safety tests are being made to make sure we can use them safely.
Photo Source: Jim Linwood (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)