Pledge your support for Invasive Species Week 2019

Staff from Lombard on a Himalayan balsam pull 23 May 2018

This summer, we will be continuing our work tackling non-native invasive species in the beautiful New Forest. Why not celebrate Invasive Species Week by pledging to join us?

Monday 13 May sees the start of Invasive Species Week 2019, which is all about raising awareness of invasive non-native species and the simple things people can do to prevent their spread. 

Invasive non-native species can harm the environment, are costly to the economy and can even pose a risk to human health. For example Japanese knotweed can cause structural damage to buildings and giant hogweed contains a sap which can be harmful to people. Both these plants and many others such as Himalayan balsam also threaten our native wildlife.

Hosted by Hampshire & Isle of Wight Wildlife Trust, The New Forest Non-Native Plants Project is helping to stop the spread of invasive non-native plants. Japanese knotweed and giant hogweed are controlled by professional contractors but if you would like to play your part in controlling invasive non-native plants, why not volunteer 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 plants.

Its seed pods ‘explode’ quite dramatically when ripe, scattering the seeds over a wide area. It can reach an astounding five metres in height by mid-summer but luckily it has short roots and can be pulled up easily, so balsam-pulling can be very satisfying.

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

Catherine Chatters, New Forest Non-Native Plants Officer, 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. She 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 wet and muddy!"

Volunteers pulling Himalayan balsam in August 2018

Volunteers pulling Himalayan balsam along Avon Water © Catherine Chatters

The volunteer work parties are part of the New Forest ‘Our Past, Our Future’ Landscape Partnership Scheme, supported by the National Lottery Heritage 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. 

If you have a bit of time to spend in the summer, why not pledge your support during Invasive Species Week and offer to help on a balsam pull this year?

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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