Originating from the Himalayas, this invasive plant can cause a headache for farmers and conservationists alike.
Himalayan balsam is an annual plant which begins to grow vigorously in spring, outcompeting native plants and reducing biodiversity on riverbanks.
It flowers in June to September then seed pods appear which explode when touched, scattering seeds over a wide area.
The solution? The balsam has to be removed by physically pulling it up from the ground. To do this, West Cumbria Rivers Trust needs volunteers.
“We work as hard as possible to control invasive species but we are a small team with a huge area to cover,” said Jodie Mills, director at West Cumbria Rivers Trust.
This work needs to be done before the seed pods grow, after which disturbing the plant can help the species spread further.
Tackling balsam across the region
West Cumbria Rivers Trust is working to pull balsam across the area. The trust is focusing its greatest efforts on the River Cocker upstream of Cockermouth and the River Glenderamackin upstream of Keswick.
Volunteers are needed on June 13 at Mosser, June 22 in Cockermouth and July 1 at Loweswater. Meanwhile, a new monthly Cocker Catchment Volunteer Group that will do various conservation tasks is starting with a balsam pull on June 10, near Loweswater.
The trust also wants community groups to get involved, learn how to pull balsam, then adopt their own stretch on a local river to help control balsam over a wider area.
“This summer we’ll be running lots of volunteer events and can support people to get up and running in pulling balsam themselves,” said Jodie.
“Keep an eye on our event listings on our website. We’re always hugely grateful to all our fantastic volunteers who generously donate their time to help us do even more for West Cumbria’s rivers and lakes.”
Anyone interested in helping can find out more about the volunteer events on West Cumbria Rivers Trust’s website, or contact Esther Foster on [email protected] for advice on setting up their own group.