Saturday, 15 June 2013

Alien Smoothies versus Uckfield Roughs

We are still removing Himalayan Balsam from the Hempstead Meadow nature reserve, run by Uckfield Town Council.  Although the pink balsam flowers are lovely, the huge plants would simply swamp the wide variety of native plants in the reserve. The picture below shows a pretty, delicate looking crosswort, which in another week, would have been swamped by the nearby balsam seedling.

Cross wort (centre) next to Balsam seedling (bottom right)
The balsam plants are getting bigger now. Some of the biggest were two and a half foot high (about 70cm in new money) but seedlings are still coming through so we still need to look out for those. The plants are quite easy to pull out of the damp soil. The trick is to grasp them as near the bottom of the stem as possible and pull gently but steadily.  If you snatch at them their sappy stems just break at the joints.

Balsam plants left on the side of the path to dry out.
The young balsam plants are similar to many native plants so we have to be careful to pull out the right ones.  The photo below shows some of the differences.

Differences between balsam and similar native plants.
Himalayan Balsam Native Species
Leaves - smooth
Colour - light, sometimes has a reddish tinge, especially around the veins
Stems - pale, smooth, and very sappy
Leaves - often rough, even if only slightly; or hairy
Colour - often darker and I've not seen a red tinged one yet
Stems - often darker, rougher

To sum up, the alien invaders are red-tinged smoothies while the Uckfield natives tend to be a bit on the rough side. What can I say?

There are a couple more work days to go (Saturday mornings, meeting by the Waitrose carpark gate at 9.00am). See the council website for more information.

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