Himalayan balsam damaging native flora in Stanley Bank Meadow

Volunteers are being sought to help rid some of the borough’s best green spaces of invasive plants.

Residents can help Rangers to halt the spread of Himalayan balsam, an invasive plant species that is damaging native flora in Stanley Bank Meadow.

The pink-flowered, non-native species spreads easily and quickly, smothering habitats and harming native plant life.

The practice of pulling the weeds, often referred to as “balsam bashing”, is being adopted by St Helens Council’s Ranger Service to prevent further harm to the meadow – designated a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) for being a regionally rare area of lowland, damp, neutral grassland.

The balsam bashing events will be held on Tuesday 9th July and Tuesday 23rd July. 10am to Midday on both days. Meet at the Sankey Valley Visitor Centre on Blackbrook Road, St Helens WA11 OAB.

Himalayan balsam is sometimes cultivated for its flowers but is now widely established in other parts of the world (such as the British Isles and the United States) as an invasive plant species ‘in the wild’.

In the UK the plant was first introduced in 1839 in ornamental gardens at the same time as two other notoriously invasive and problematic species; Giant Hogweed and Japanese Knotweed.

These plants were all promoted at the time as having the virtues of “herculean proportions” and “splendid invasiveness” which meant that people could create large garden greenery for the cost of a packet of seeds.The plant’s aggressive seed dispersal, coupled with high nectar production which attracts pollinators enables Himalayan Balsam to surpass native plants.

Within ten years however, the species had escaped from the confines of cultivation and began to spread along the river systems of England, where it leaves banks bare and subject to erosion when it dies down.

Gloves will be provided at all events but please wear suitable, stout footwear and bring a drink.

For further information please contact the Rangers on 01744 677 772.

For other Ranger Events in July please visit http://www.sthelensunlimited.co.uk/2019/07/07/ranger-service-events-july-2019/

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