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The environmental curse of Himalayan Balsam

05 October 2012


From Canon Allan Swain
Sir, - In embracing Himalayan Balsam, Ronald Blythe (Word from Wormingford, 21 September) is in danger of being deceived by surface beauty, as Samson was by Delilah.

This prolific introduction is rapidly taking over our riverbanks and wetlands, smothering the native plants, such as purple loosestrife and hemp agrimony, essential food- plants of our discerning native butterflies. Beneath its towering stems, the low-growing herbs cannot grow, further threatening the water vole, the UK's fastest-declining mammal, which depends on them for food.

When the shallow-rooted annual Himalayan Balsam dies back in autumn, it leaves no root structure to reinforce the banks, which are then prone to erosion in heavy rain. The silt released by the collapse can pollute the stream and clog the gravels of the bed, which support many mini-beasts and fish spawn.

Being thus shallow-rooted, unlike the tares in the wheat-field, it can, and should be, gathered up before the flowers fade, and cast into the flames, before it disperse its  verminous seed.

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