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Vanquishing non-native plant invaders

Published: Tuesday 31 October 2017

Vanquishing non-native plant invaders

The quest to rid the New Forest of an invasive non-native plant is celebrating a significant success.

Committed volunteers have reduced Himalayan balsam to just a single plant at a site previously overrun with this highly invasive species.

This is a welcome milestone in the fight against non-native plant invaders. With its exploding seed pods and adaptability, Himalayan balsam out-competes native plant life and harms biodiversity in precious New Forest habitats.

The New Forest Non-Native Plants Project, which is hosted by Hampshire & Isle of Wight Wildlife Trust, is helping landowners and land managers to stop the spread of Himalayan balsam. The New Forest Higher Level Stewardship (HLS) Scheme funds the Project’s work on the Open Forest where volunteers are tackling the spread of Himalayan balsam along the banks of the Beaulieu River.

When the Himalayan balsam along the Beaulieu River was surveyed in 2009, thousands of balsam plants were present, mainly concentrated in a particularly wet, muddy area on the west bank. Since then volunteers have worked hard each summer to pull up the plants before they set seed. If left, Himalayan balsam’s seed pods explode and scatter seed up to seven metres, which can then float downstream and spread to other sites.

Volunteer work parties to pull up the Himalayan balsam along this part of the Beaulieu River continued during June and July this year and the single remaining balsam plant growing was removed by volunteer Pam Reading.

Catherine Chatters, New Forest Non-Native Plants Officer, said “It is great news that all the hard work by volunteers is proving to be worthwhile and I am really grateful to the courageous people who have braved the muddy conditions to reach those balsam plants growing in difficult-to-reach places. However balsam seeds can survive for a few years in the soil so I’ll continue to lead volunteer work parties with the aim of eradicating Himalayan balsam from the banks of the Beaulieu River”.

The HLS scheme that funds plant removal is an agreement with Natural England, held by the Verderers and managed by them in partnership with the Forestry Commission and the New Forest National Park Authority.

In addition to invasive non-native species removal, the HLS scheme also supports commoning, wetland restoration, archaeology and education. This includes bringing more than 11,000 children on school trips to the National Park, recording thousands of forgotten archaeological sites and restoring nine miles of streams to their natural meanders.  

To find out more about the HLS scheme and its work to eradicate invasive non-natives species from the New Forest visit www.hlsnewforest.org.uk/invasives