Twenty volunteers turned up in Heaton Mersey Park last Sunday morning (21 June) and set to work literally pulling out thousands of plants. (The roots are so shallow, you can easily get a handful out in one pull.)
Concerned villagers turned out, not just HMVCG-ers. Councillor Colin Foster was there to join in, as was several employees from local estate agent, Joules, (who had been very helpful with publicising the event). The sun took its hat off in the afternoon, and the workers made a really big dent in the masses of Himalayan Balsam in the lower park. They were rewarded with the knowledge of a job well done (and with chocolate chip cookies as well.)
Well done on the day, but not finished – the Task Day Leader ended with a call for further action: “Let’s finish the job!” She announced that the HMVCG will be having a “July Blitz” to completely eradicate this thug from Heaton Mersey Park. (Click here to find out more about our July Blitz and how you can help)
More exoneration: “But they’re pretty”, said my husband, looking at a flyer for a “Balsam Bashing” event. The flyer had a photo of mature pink-flowering Himalayan Balsam plants. In tone of voice as well, he was implying “So what’s the fuss – aren’t parks supposed to have pretty flowers?”
But Himalayan Balsam (innocently brought to this country by a Victorian about 175 years ago) is a greedy thug hiding behind a pretty face. It is an annual, will grow above head height during the summer. In August it will projectile vomit about 800 seeds from seed pods, some flying as far as 7 metres (even without the aid of wind!).
The first photo below shows a solitary balsam plant (centre) which is less than a foot in height (photo taken in top level of Heaton Mersey Park). See the flowers in the background? (and weeds too – not so pretty but they are OUR weeds!) If not checked, this little thug will grow into a big thug. It will multiply, its hundreds of children hogging the sunshine and soil nutrients from the other native plants. And in a few years this area will look like the second photo below (taken in the lower level of the park).
Concern about Himalayan Balsam is not just a current fad. The government recognises the threat and it is an offence to plant or otherwise allow it to grow in the wild (Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981, Section 9). You can’t be fined if it is in your garden, but you can be if you let it spread to open spaces!
Stockport Countryside Officer, John Rowland, gave a presentation “Invasive Weeds – What to Look For” to several HMVCG members, which inspired them to change a projected litter-picking event to a “Balsam Bashing” day in Heaton Mersey Park. So many bad things going on in the world – we can indirectly help by giving a donation, for example, to a refugee aid appeal – but what can we do directly? Here’s one thing I can think of: we can defend our green spaces from nasty invaders! If we don’t, here is a possible scenario: you are in the park with your grandchild and the child says: “Grandma, shall I pull out that white flower there – the park is supposed to be all tall PINK flowers, isn’t it?”