Volunteers tackle Invaders of the National Park: eradicating Himalayan Balsam in Cwm Bwchel

Posted on 3 Jul 2023

This summer Bannau Brycheiniog National Park is amplifying its efforts in tackling the invasive non-native species, Himalayan Balsam. With its rampant growth and adverse impact on local ecosystems, this effort aims to protect the park’s biodiversity and preserve its natural beauty for generations to come.

Himalayan Balsam (Impatiens glandulifera), a plant native to the western Himalayas, was introduced to the United Kingdom during the 19th century as an ornamental plant. However, its rapid spread and disruptive nature soon classified it as a highly invasive species, outcompeting native vegetation and posing a significant threat to the delicate balance of local ecosystems. Recognizing the urgent need for action, volunteers and park authorities have united forces to combat this ecological challenge head-on.

Taking part in what is known as a ‘balsam bash’, dozens of enthusiastic volunteers have stepped forward to assist in the eradication efforts. Ranging from passionate environmentalist to corporate teams, these volunteers have dedicated countless hours to removing the invasive plants from designated areas across the park.

The eradication process involves manual removal, wherein volunteers carefully uproot the plants to prevent them from dispersing seeds. Not only does this physically remove the immediate threat posed by Himalayan Balsam, but it also disrupts its life cycle, limiting future growth and spread.

“The response from our community has been truly inspiring,” said Nicky Davies, Ecologist for the National Park. “Volunteers have demonstrated an exceptional commitment to preserving the Park’s natural heritage, and their contributions are invaluable in our fight against Himalayan Balsam.

“We have been working on a site in Cwm Bwchel since 2017. It has been amazing to see how the extent of balsam distribution has shrunk so dramatically, although we can never be complacent. The balsam is competing with bracken, so we try to manage that too. The bracken is cut into so we can reach balsam plants to pull them out. There are great signs of nature recovery in the area. We have noticed more patches of healthy acid grassland, bog pimpernel, trailing St. John’s wort, several fritillary butterfly species, adders and the common lizard. Sheep and ponies have returned to the site to graze which is a big positive.”

The collective effort is already yielding positive results, with significant areas now free from Himalayan Balsam infestations. By removing this invasive species, the volunteers are enabling native plants and wildlife to thrive, thereby restoring the ecological balance within the park.

Bannau Brycheiniog National Park encourages individuals who are passionate about conservation to learn how to identify and effectively remove Himalayan Balsam. Valuable resources and information on identifying and eradicating this invasive species can be found on the Welsh Government’s website at: https://www.gov.wales/himalayan-balsam-public-information-controlling-invasive-species. By acquiring the knowledge and skills needed to combat Himalayan Balsam, everyone can actively contribute to preserving the Park’s delicate ecosystem.