Himalayan balsam (Impatiens glandulifera), AKA Indian Balsam, Policeman’s Helmet, can grow up to 3m tall. It flowers from late May to October.
The pink/purple bonnet shaped flowers are 2.5 – 4cm long.
The leaves are 6 – 15cm long, lance shaped, with sharply toothed edges and have a reddish mid-rib. Seed pods are produced from July to October. They are 1.5 – 3.5cm long and explode when touched.
Himalayan balsam roots are reddish and very shallow.
This tall, annual plant spreads very quickly and rapidly dominates moist ground. In winter, when the plant dies back, it destabilises riverbanks.
Pollinators, such as bees, prefer to visit Himalayan balsam flowers over our native flowers because they produce a lot of nectar. This leaves native species unlikely to reproduce.
Do not touch the plant if seed pods are already present, or they will explode and send seeds flying in all directions!
Small infestations of Himalayan balsam can be controlled by hand-pulling the whole plant, including roots, in April and any new growth in September; or by regular grazing, strimming or the application of herbicides.
For large, riverside infestations, a specialist invasive species control company should be consulted.
If you encounter Himalayan balsam please enter the details into our log.