Pledge your support during Invasive Species Week

The local community is being marshalled in the battle against invasive non-native species

The local community is being marshalled in the battle against invasive non-native species as part of a national initiative to raise awareness of the impact these introduced species can have on wildlife and people.

Invasive Species Week - Friday 23 March to Thursday 29 March 2018 - highlights the problems caused by invasive non-native species. This includes plants such as Japanese knotweed, Himalayan balsam and giant hogweed, which threaten our native wildlife and cause wider problems to people and property.

The New Forest Non-Native Plants Project, hosted by Hampshire & Isle of Wight Wildlife Trust, is helping to stop the spread of invasive non-native plants and is looking for volunteers to pull up Himalayan balsam along river banks this summer.

Himalayan balsam

Himalayan balsam © Lianne de Mello

Introduced in the nineteenth century as a garden plant, Himalayan balsam has spread rapidly and invaded the countryside, particularly along river banks, where it can form dense colonies and out-compete our native wildlife. Its seed pods ‘explode’ quite dramatically when ripe, scattering the seeds over a wide area and, although it’s an annual plant, it can reach an astounding five metres in height by mid-summer. Luckily it has short roots and can be pulled up easily, so balsam-pulling can be very satisfying.

Patsy Baverstock pulling Himalayan balsam

New Forest Non-Native Plants Project

The New Forest Non-Native Plants Project has been organising Himalayan balsam pulls for the past nine years along the Lymington River, the Cadnam River and the Avon Water.

Catherine Chatters, New Forest Non-Native Plants Officer at Hampshire & Isle of Wight Wildlife Trust, said “All the hard work and enthusiasm of the many people who’ve helped us has really made a difference, but there is still plenty more work to be done.” Catherine will be leading more volunteer work parties along the Cadnam River and the Avon Water this year and would be delighted to hear from anyone who would like to get involved.

Jo Gore of the Wildlife Trust added “If you like being outside in the fresh air you would be very welcome to join us on a balsam pull but it’s important to wear your wellingtons as some areas are extremely wet and muddy!” Jo will continue to lead balsam pulls on the Lymington River and its tributaries and is keen for people to help her, especially in the Lymington area.

The volunteer work parties are part of the New Forest ‘Our Past, Our Future’ Landscape Partnership Scheme, supported by the Heritage Lottery Fund. They start in May and continue into the autumn and are a great opportunity to do something to improve your local environment in the company of like-minded people.

For a list of dates and locations of Himalayan balsam pulls organised by the New Forest Non-Native Plants Project this summer, please contact Catherine Chatters at Catherine.Chatters@hiwwt.org.uk or telephone 07770 923315.

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