Himalayan Balsam - an invasive plant

Written by Brian Frith.

Himalayan Balsam - a special request from the 'Norfolk Non-Native Species Initiative'

This article is taken from the recent Norfolk Association of Local Councils update, via Forncett Clerk Anne Rayner

In Norfolk there are several Invasive Non-Native Species which pose a threat to our unique ecosystems and wildlife. One of the main “culprits” is Himalayan Balsam. This plant, which is native to India was introduced to the UK in 1839. It spreads through exploding seed pods and as it grows to more than 3 metres tall, it shades out most native plants where it is growing. The plant usually grows along watercourses and as it dies back in the winter, this leaves bare soil which is then vulnerable to erosion, causing bankside instability and adding sediment to the water. This can have a knock on effect on aquatic plants and may prevent some fish from being able to breed successfully. Studies have also shown that bees prefer this plant and when it is growing in an area, native plants may not be pollinated as a result of bees ignoring them to favour the Himalayan balsam.

The plant can be identified from its pink to white flowers, tall stalks with red stemmed leaves and cocoon shaped seed pods.

At Norfolk Non-Native Species Initiative we are trying to map the plants spread across the county, as once we know where it currently is, we are going to take action to stop it in its tracks with the aim of eventually eradicating it. This is the best time of year to spot the plant, when it is at its tallest and flowing. If you think you have seen it growing in your area, please take a photograph (if it is safe to do so) and send this along with the location to