• Wildlife Friendly Otley

HIMALAYAN BALSAM


A different tone for today’s post: this invasive species is a significant problem around Otley. On the face of it, there’s a lot to like about it: pollinators like the flowers, lots of people like the smell, and the pink colour is not unattractive. Alternative names include Policeman’s Helmet, Bobby Tops, and Gnome’s Hatstand. But it has a tendency to take over and reduce biodiversity, swamping other species. This is partly due to its extremely effective seed dispersal method – an explosive pod that admittedly is quite fun to trigger. Fortunately, it’s really easy and very satisfying to pull up, having short roots – children can do it. On one of our Chevin routes we stop each time to spend 5 or 10 minutes at the same spot, pulling up the Balsam. We’re never going to eradicate it, even if we wanted to, but if lots of us chip away at it we can make a difference. If you are tempted, work away at the edges rather than creating a hole which will quickly be repopulated. Heap the pulled plants up, as they can re-root, and the heap will form a habitat for invertebrates etc. Also, a neat pile doesn’t wind up those people who like their countryside “tidy”. Now is the time to do the picking, before the seeds form later in the summer. The second photo shows what they look like now.

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