Sunday, 30 August 2015

Balsam and a Cat

This week I evaluate a little experiment I undertook last year. On the patch of land I look after there is present that invasive species - Himalayan Balsam.

The pretty pink plant found along much of our water ways was introduced to Britain from India in 1839 along with Japanese Knotweed and Giant Hogweed, both of which exist on other stretches down the river,

Balsam is incredibly prolific and spread via impressive exploding seed cases. There is much debate about what to do about this species and many believe it should be hand pulled and burned. My take on it is slightly different and specifically tailored to my patch.

On my patch the balsam is a mosaic species one of many including nettles, meadowsweet, Epilobium and Purple Loosestrife. It has not come to dominant the area and exists on patches, often out competed by natives on much of the patch. It is not acting invasively here... yet. Whilst the plant itself is not favoured by many of our insects the characteristic sweet smelling pink helmet shaped flowers are adored by Bees.

With Bees suffering I find it hard to rationalise the removal of a potential food source so last year I attempted a little control method. Along the bridge path I have responsibility for the right hand side and so went in August and cut the flower heads just before they set seed. This year as you can see comparing the two sides of the path that there is much less balsam on my side than the other.

Left Side - Note the number of Balsam flowers close to the railings (Control)

Right side - note the lack of balsam close to the rails (Experiment)
Now this is not the greatest experiment I haven't quantified this in any way but it does prove to me at least that where I want to control balsam it is most effectively done by dead heading in early-mid August.

On a very separate note my trail cam has detected a new visitor to my patch - a Ginger Cat. I have had a black and white cat pass through in the past but this ginger cat with white socks spent much of Monday pottering up and down the hedge-line between 7.43 am and Mid-day. Most interestingly he seemed to enjoy a spot of Muntjac baiting.