11 June 2011
Alumni Office staff undertake Himalayan Balsam bashing on the River Don
On Saturday 11 June, nine members of staff from the Development and Alumni Relations Office undertook Himalayan Balsam bashing on the River Don as part of a project organised by SheffieldVolunteering.
The team worked with the Sheffield Wildlife Trust, who manage the nearby Salmon Pastures Nature Reserve, part of the Blue Loop project, to clear the River bank of the weed, to collect litter and clear paths for walkers and fishermen.
Himalayan balsam ( Impatiens glandulifera) is a relative of the Busy Lizzie and is known by a wide variety of common names, including Indian balsam, jumping jack and policeman's helmet. It is a tall, robust plant producing clusters of purplish pink helmet-shaped flowers. These are followed by seed-pods that open explosively when ripe, shooting their seeds up to 7m (22ft) away. Each plant can produce up to 800 seeds.
Himalayan balsam was introduced to the UK in 1839, and is now naturalised, especially on riverbanks and increasingly in waste places. It has become a problematical weed. Himalayan balsam tolerates low light levels and, in turn, tends to shade out other vegetation, impoverishing habitats.
The best way to control Himalayan balsam is to pull it out by hand before it flowers and sets seed. As each plant grows new from seed each year, it only takes a couple of seasons for the seed bank to be exhausted and the plant to be eradicated.