Himalayan Balsam: explosive stuff!

At Groundsure all employees are given the opportunity to take a day out of their normal work to volunteer in the local community.

We chose to get involved in a river clean-up day with Arun and Rother Connections (ARC) Project in Horsham. The Project is funded by the Heritage Lottery Fund and is a partnership between the RSPB, South Downs National Park, Arun & Rother Rivers Trust, Environment Agency, Sussex Wildlife Trust, Natural England and West Sussex County Council.

Its aims are to improve local rivers for people and wildlife. Part of this project is to help remove non-native invasive species from the river catchment – please click here to find out more.

As part of a team of around 12 people from all over Sussex, we cleared an entire 600m stretch of river from Hills Farm Lane to Arunside Primary School of Himalayan Balsam, rubbish and a few shopping trollies.  Luckily for us we picked one of the hottest days of the year so far to venture into a river.

Our main task was to hand pull Himalayan Balsam to prevent re-rooting. Himalayan Balsam plants can each produce 800 seeds every year, which can survive for up to two years whilst floating in rivers or streams and are extremely tolerant of shady positions 1. In addition, the explosive nature of its seed release meant we had to be extra vigilant when we pulled the plant to make sure we didn’t aid the spread of the seeds.

By outcompeting native plant life Himalayan Balsam reduces wildlife diversity so we need to remove it from our wetland habitats. Much invasive species control work can only be carried out by hand because heavy machinery and chemical control disturbs the sensitive wildlife ARC are working to protect.

Apart from being repeatedly stung by stinging nettles and Matt’s questionable hat attire, we had a great time. We urge you to take part in similar events.


  1. The Telegraph ,2015, The UK’s most Invasive Plants. Available at (http://www.telegraph.co.uk/gardening/problem-solving/the-uk-s-most-invasive-plants/) accessed 3rd August 2016

(FEATURED IMAGE: The various strange items we found in the river (Photo credit: Kate Whitton))

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