Pink-flowering Himalayan Balsam looks a picture at the moment in Uckfield’s Hempstead Meadow Local Nature Reserve (LNR) and other spots near the River Uck.
So, why is it being pulled out of the nature reserve and left to die?
It may look pretty but if left unchecked would spread and smother other more valuable vegetation.
Himalayan Balsam is non-native and invasive and that’s why the plants are being pulled from the reserve which lies between the Waitrose car park and the Hempstead Lane playing field.
Hempstead Meadow LNR is owned by the town council and its ranger, Geoff Pollard, is getting rid of as many plants as possible, supported by volunteers, before the seed sets.
This is regarded as the most effective non-chemical control method.
According to the Royal Horticultural Society, each plant can produce up to 800 seeds that open explosively when ripe, distributing the seed over a wide area.
The seeds are also distributed by water, especially when rivers are in spate and rush across the flood plain – which is what the nature reserve is.
The balsam pulling is an ongoing project and if anyone wishes to help they should contact Uckfield Town Council in the first instance and before doing any work.
There is also a supporters’ group for the reserve.
Himalayan Balsam was introduced to Britain in 1839, a period when wealthy British landowners went or sent representatives to Asia and other places around the world to bring back plants.
The town council website says this about the nature reserve:
“Habitats include regularly inundated tussocky damp grassland, ditches, scrub, established trees including willow, alder, and black poplars and mixed grassland.
“The site supports a number of greater tussock sedges, considered uncommon in the South East.
“Other typical species include hemlock water- dropwort, rushes, sedges, foxtails, crosswort, meadowsweet and tansy. Fauna of interest includes grass snakes and slow worms.
“Bird species are variable and include snipe, sparrowhawk, song thrush and goldfinch. Insect life is rich and includes a wide range of butterflies, hoverflies, dragonflies, mayflies and beetles.”