Battling Balsam One Bag at a Time

As the weather warms and you start emerging from indoors to start your garden, weed your
yard, or trim your trees, consider marking your calendars for Three Shores CISMA’s Himalayan Balsam Trade-Up events. Himalayan Balsam is an invasive, annual flowering plant that is a member of the touch-me-not family. It has bright and light pink flowers shaped like a constable’s cap. The leaves are tear shaped with saw-like edges. The base of the stem is red and the entire stem is hollow. It can quickly spread through riparian areas decreasing the biodiversity and causing erosion problems due to its shallow root structure.

How does it spread so easily? Being a member of the touch-me-not family, Himalayan Balsam
will shoot its seeds when it is time for dispersal. It will also release seeds before this point if the plant is touched or accidentally brushed. Once the seed launches from the plant, it can travel up to seven
meters away from the parent plant. This makes for easy and fast dispersal. Additionally, Himalayan
Balsam seeds can remain in the seed bank for up to two years, making larger populations more difficult to control.

Erosion problems will arise due to Himalayan Balsam’s incredibly short root structure. Once it
dies off in the fall, the lack of remaining root structure leaves the soil at risk for erosion in the following spring when the snow begins to melt and run-off becomes an issue. A native relative of Himalayan Balsam, Jewelweed, has longer roots than Himalayan Balsam, so when the plant dies off, the root structure will remain in the soil, holding it up.

In addition to erosion and soil problems, Himalayan Balsam also drastically reduces the amount
of biodiversity in an area. Since it can grow as tall as two meters or six feet, Himalayan Balsam is
excellent at overshadowing neighboring plants. It also has incredibly sweet nectar, tempting native
pollinators more so than native plants tempt native pollinators. This in turn decreases the potential fruit yield from any fruit plants/trees you may have in your yard as well.

So what is a trade-up event? Three Shores CISMA’s trade-up events are a great way for you to
get outside and familiarize yourself with some local invasive species. We will be at the Sault Ste. Marie Farmer’s Market on June 26, July 24, August 7, and August 14. There will be gloves, contractor bags, spades, and native plant species seed packets and plugs, such as native jewelweed, so you don’t have a bare spot in your yard! Once you have identified the Himalayan Balsam in your yard, you can pull it (as it is very easy to pull due to its short root structure) bag it in the contractor bags we will give you, and then plant your native plants where you pulled! Replacing invasive plants with native plants helps to take out nutrients in the seed bank that invasive seeds may use, as well as takes up space that would otherwise be disturbed open space. Once you have pulled Himalayan balsam and planted your native species, give us a call and we’ll help dispose of the plants for you for free! Similar efforts will be conducted by the Bay Mills Indian Community and Sault Tribe of Chippewa Indians, and we’d be happy to connect you with their collaborative trade-up efforts if you’re a member of their community. We will also have disposal supplies and giveaways to give out at Chippewa Luce Mackinac Conservation District 75th anniversary Plant Celebration on June 21. Help us say bye-bye to Balsam!

EUP News Staff

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *