Wednesday, 16 July 2014

Ongoing Touch Me Not Balsam and Netted Carpet Moth conservation at Millerground and Parson Wyke.

Pulling out brambles at two National Trust sites, close to Windermere's eastern shore, has given a much needed boost to the numbers of a scarce annual native plant known as Touch Me Not Balsam. Its main stronghold is in the Lake District but in quite limited numbers.

Pulling out brambles at Parson Wyke. Disturbing the ground and reducing competition from brambles will hopefully allow more Touch Me Not seeds to germinate in the Spring.

An image of the site at Parson Wyke this impressive stand of Touch Me Not where brambles were once dominant.

A close up of one of the flowers.

Volunteers help to pull out and cut back brambles at Millerground in March. This has had the  benefit of allowing 2200 bluebells to be planted; when their season is  over, Touch Me Not should appear in greater numbers in late spring.

Success with the Bluebells at Millerground....

and later on with the Touch Me Not!

As mentioned in previous posts, Touch Me Not is the only food source for one of the rarest moths in the UK....The Netted Carpet Moth; its caterpillars (see image) are utterly reliant on this plant. 

Good numbers of plants are needed to maintain annual moth populations.

A Netted Carpet Moth spotted on July 11th. These moths were extensively collected by Victorians; for quite some time the moths were thought to be extinct from the 1900's up until it was "rediscovered" in the 1940's at a site near Windermere.

Invasive Plant Problems

At Millerground invasive non native Himalayan Balsam is a constant threat. It is pulled out regularly to prevent it from displacing the Touch Me Not plants.

Pendulous sedge grass {Carex Pendula} is spreading at an alarming rate and is starting to take over some of the Touch Me Not sites... at Millerground in particular. It likes similar conditions. ie damp shady woodlands.

A small Touch Me Not almost smothered by Carex Pendula; it is sometimes referred to as a "Thug Plant" because it is potentially highly invasive.

White Butterbur, a perennial introduced from Central Europe, is also becoming increasingly invasive at Millerground and is rapidly displacing Native flora as it spreads. 

 There was once a flourishing Touch Me Not stand here two years ago; now just a single plant grows on the outer edge of the massed ranks of Butterbur.

 Giant Hogweed. A highly invasive plant that also contains poisonous sap that can cause severe burns... hence the protective clothing and gloves... Several were found at Parson Wyke and were promptly  dug up and destroyed.

Giant Hogweed flowers are capable of producing thousands of seeds.

Yet another invasive plant...American Skunk Cabbage. They are very long lived and are extremely difficult to eradicate. far the worst of the invasives is Japanese Knotweed. It spreads alarmingly quickly and is notoriously difficult to eradicate. In this image it is starting to encroach on a Touch me Not stand at Parson Wyke in early Spring. If left unchecked this area could become choked with knotweed in a very short time.

A concerted effort will be made to deal with these invasive plants; otherwise there is a major risk that some Touch Me Not stands will become completely overrun.

Only when invasive plants are kept in check are the Annual Touch Me Not stands able to flourish. ( see image of a stand free of invasives  at Millerground above)


  1. Removing Carex Pendula roots is a herculean challenge, compared with the shallow roots of the Himalayan Balsam. It has also been classified as a "noxious weed" in the USA and New Zealand where, in both, it is not a native plant. Good luck!

    1. Thanks for your comment and message of Good Luck. Will you help us deal with this "Herculean Challenge"!?