Pensioner urges people to halt superweed invasion

Himalayan balsam ENGPPP00720140127105242
Himalayan balsam ENGPPP00720140127105242
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A keen gardener is calling on residents to help stop an invading alien superweed from destroying West Norfolk’s countryside.

Audrey Steven is growing increasingly concerned about the spread of Himalayan Balsam after seeing the aggressive species take over the banks of a stream in South Wootton, smothering all other plant life in its path.

The pink-flowered weed – introduced to Britain in the 1800s – may look pretty, but it grows up to 10ft high and is so dense that it stops other species from taking root.

Now 80-year-old Audrey, of Tintern Grove, South Wootton, is urging people to pull up young Himalayan Balsam plants from the soil, before they get a chance to take hold.

“The plant is non-native to this country and is extremely invasive,” she said.

“It can erode the banks of streams and rivers and kill off other native wildlife plants.

“They are currently in seed, so I’m worried it’s going to spread quickly. The seeds could also drop into the water and contaminate land and water downstream.

“If anyone sees any young plants in their gardens or in the countryside, they should pull them up by the root.”

Audrey first noticed the plant growing in South Wootton, along the stream next to the footpath between Avon Road and Tesco Express, a few months ago when they weren’t very big.

She contacted South Wootton Parish Council in the hope that contracted landscapers would be able to cut them back but they have since grown to more than 3ft.

She said: “I think it’s too late to do anything about these ones now, as once they have taken hold, they are really hard to get rid of. They would need to be pulled up and disposed of very carefully to stop the seeds going everywhere.”

Elsewhere in the country, people have been waging war against the weed by organising ‘balsam bashing’ work parties to clear it away.

Kelvin Fairweather, of Lynn Horticultural Society, said the Norfolk Wildlife Trust are award of it but it is too late to do anything this year as the only way of dealing with it is to pull the plants out – pesticides not being useable given the proximity to water.

It is too late for this year as it has already set seed, and if you pulled it up now the seeds would ‘explode’.

everywhere (they can project seeds up to 4 metres).

He said: “Dense stands suffocate other plants, so when it dies back in winter it leaves bare river banks which are more vulnerable to erosion. It also produces copious amounts of nectar which attracts pollinators away from native plants.”