It is coming up to the time of year when many volunteers will set their diaries to assist in the annual eradication of Himalayan Balsam, an invasive species, at Turretbank Wood in Crieff. As many of you will know, if the Himalayan Balsam is left to flower and go to seed, the seed pods once ripened, ping and can expel seeds up to 20 feet away. As each plant can produce up to 800 seeds it is easy to see why it is a very invasive species. Although pretty, the Himalayan Balsam plants soon swamp an area, choking native species and creating a monoculture.
Over the past three summers, Crieff Community Trust has organised a targeted campaign to remove the plant and it was encouraging for those who have been taking part to see the apparent significant reduction in new growth last summer. However, although Turretbank Wood, the area being focused on, is large, open and obviously outdoors, due to the current Covid -19 restrictions CCT will not be able to organise an eradication campaign this summer.
Nonetheless, individuals can and do work independently and remotely from one another when picking the balsam. Indeed previously, even when working as a group, for someone to be removing plants within say 10m of another would be considered quite close and almost poaching on the other person’s patch! So some of the CCT board members will be making a start, individually, on removing new Himalayan Balsam plants at the end of June. We hope that like-minded individuals will do likewise – not to join us, but to carry out their own independent Himalayan Balsam Blitz at Turret Bank Wood.
Uprooting the Himalayan Balsam stalks does not require the use of any tools and the uprooted plants can simply be left to wither on the ground where they have been growing, so there is no further handling or transportation involved. Identification of the plants to be uprooted is straightforward. Himalayan Balsam stalks are narrow and tubular and easily spotted as they present with horizontal leaves that are arranged in groups of three. The flowers are pretty, pink and look similar to orchids. If the roots do not easily lift out of the ground when the stalks are slowly pulled up then the plant is not Himalayan Balsam.
We will carry out a general risk appraisal for our own individual health and safety, taking into consideration members of the public using Turret Bank Wood, although from past experience there is no interaction with, nor danger to, the public. Previously the only “contact” with members of the public walking along Turret Bank Wood has been in responding to occasional queries as to what we were up to. Such question and answer situations can simply be carried out at a distance well in excess of 2 metres. In previous years when eradicating Himalayan Balsam at Turret Bank Wood we would have had a hat for rain or sun and have always worn gloves and suitable clothing to cover arms and legs and protect against nettle stings, thorns and brambles and the possible presence of ticks.