Tuesday, 2 September 2014

Himalayan Balsam "Pull For A Brew" with South Cumbria Rivers Trust.

The last organised volunteer balsam pull for this  year, with South Cumbria Rivers Trust, took place at  a site near Skelwith Bridge on Saturday 30th August. Vanda and I met up with Jen at 10 am. Sadly, no one else turned up; after waiting a while, our small band set to work.

Link to South Cumbria Rivers Trust: 

Invasive Himalayan Balsam at Skelwith Bridge. It readily outcompetes,
and shades out our native plants, reducing diversity, and denuding river banks of understory
 vegetation. Winter die back exposes the bare soil to erosion. 
A volunteer, working on a recent National Trust project, told me about several studies that indicated volunteering has surprising benefits for the volunteer. She summed it up: "Doing good for the community makes you feel good...and does you good!"

Because it was so late in the season, bin bags were used to contain the ripe seed pods; they would be incinerated later. Many of the pods could be heard popping inside the bag!
Cutting the stem with the seed pods ready to put in a bin bag. A single plant can produce 800 seeds and project the seeds up to 4 metres away; hence the plant can spread with phenomenal speed over a few seasons.
An awkward site. I am in a silted up drainage ditch.
Vanda, National Trust colleague,
and Jen. South Cumbria Rivers Trust. and organiser of the Himalayan Balsam pulling events.
It is easy to see why the Victorians were so taken with this plant; it was introduced to the UK in 1839. They had no idea of how invasive Himalayan Balsam would become away from its natural habitat. 
Bees find Himalayan Balsam irresistible because the flowers contain so much nectar. Bees and other insects often prefer it to native plants which means yet more Himalayan Balsam gets pollinated to the detriment of native species. This allows it to spread and become dominant over large areas very rapidly.
Bees are drawn to this invasive species. Note proboscis already extended!

Oh Yes, this is 'THE PULL FOR A BREW'. Chesters By The River, a bakery, café, and shop, heard that a balsam pull was to take place nearby and had kindly offered in advance to treat all participants to a cream tea.


Thanks to all at Chesters.


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