a relative of the Busy Lizzie, but reaches well over head height, and is a major weed problem, especially on riverbanks and waste land, but can also invade gardens. It grows rapidly and spreads quickly, smothering other vegetation as it goes.
Introduced to the UK in 1839, Himalayan balsam is now a naturalised plant, found especially on riverbanks and in waste places where it has become a problem weed.
Himalayan balsam tolerates low light levels and also shades out other vegetation, so gradually impoverishing habitats by killing off other plants. Each plant can produce up to 800 seeds. These are dispersed widely as the ripe seedpods shoot their seeds up to 7m (22ft) away.
The plant is spread by two principal means; The most widespread distribution tends to be by human means where individuals pass on seed to friends. Once established in the catchment of a river the seeds, which can remain viable for two years, are transported further afield by water.
The main method of non-chemical control, and usually the most appropriate, is pulling or cutting the plants before they flower and set seed. Conservation authorities regularly organise ‘balsam bashing’ work parties to clear the weed from marshland and riverbanks.
Himalayan Balsam is an edible plant. The flowers and seeds can be eaten raw, as well as use for flavouring teas and preserves. The young stems are edible after being blanched in water and yield a crispy vegetable.
Medicinally, the flowers are used for dissolving clots, promoting diuresis, and treating abdominal pain, postpartum blood stasis, carbuncles, and difficulty in urination.