Volunteers battle 10ft weeds in Ickenham

Brave volunteers have been battling an invasive weed that grows 10ft tall on the banks of the River Pinn.

The team are determined to root out the Himalayan balsam from the Ickenham area, where it prevents many native species like forget-me-not, wild mint and primroses from growing.

Although it has pretty pink flowers and attracts bees, the balsam is considered an invasive species. Volunteer Jess Lee, from Beech Avenue in Ruislip, explained: “Balsam grows tall in just a few weeks.

“Its seeds are spring-loaded. If you touch the seed-head, it goes ‘ping’ and scatters seed all around so you get more and more balsam plants growing everywhere. We pull up as many balsam plants as possible before the seeds are released. Luckily they have shallow roots so you don’t have to pull very hard.”

The balsam first arrived in the UK about 20 years ago, as a new garden plant. But it has since spread through the wild and threatened native species.

Continued Mrs Lee: “It is fine in the Himalayas but not here. They escaped from gardens and they have become a real problem.
“If anyone sees this plant feel free to pull it out.”

Highgrove and River Pinn Volunteers meet on the third Tuesday of each month for various conservation tasks in Eastcote, Ruislip and Ickenham.
They are led by a member of Hillingdon Council’s Green Spaces team. If you are interested in joining the group contact Damien Searle on 01895 277 685. The next volunteer day is on June 21 in Ickenham, between 6 and 10pm.