Kingston University Biodiversity Action Group

03-06-13 : Volunteers' Week Balsam Bash follow-up

Glorious sunshine bathed our gang of seven Volunteers' Week newbies as they tried their hand at conservation volunteering for the first time with this fun-in-the-sun invasive species removal event by the Middle Mill Halls of Residence.

A bit of good will and good weather = good times for these volunteers!
A few weeks have passed since our first 'bash' and that has allowed new seedlings to emerge and ones we missed to gain their summer weight. This time we were able to see the true potential of these plants as they stood over 2ft high - three times the size of what we pulled up last time!

Abbie was thrilled to pull out one of the biggest plants!

Amazingly it had regenerated in spots we had cleared first time round but eager and ready for action, volunteers soon pinpointed the target weeds and tugged them out of the riverbanks.

Just like gathering flowers from the garden, Abbie got her eye in for the balsam and gathered arm-fulls of plants!
Balsam bashing is simple, easy and fun. Just look at the smiles on our volunteers' faces!

Great work Jemma, another bit of our riverbank can now be colonised by native plants which are much better for biodiversity.

Regular breaks were the order of the day as the sun beat hard down on us all, and the physical effort was multiplied by our need to cover-up in layers to avoid the prickles of brambles and stings of nettles where the balsam was hiding! Still, not ones to be put off, our new volunteers got stuck in and persevered to fill four sacks of balsam - a grand achievement. This will go a long way to managing the invasion at this spot next year.

They seek it here, they seek it there, that damned invasive balsam is everywhere!
Himalayan Balsam outcompetes our native plants for resources and pollinators, and also destabilises the riverbanks when it dies back after flowering in the summer. So ridding our riverbanks of this vigorous plant really will benefit biodiversity if our natives are allowed time to get a foothold.

If other local groups can get to grips with balsam seed sources upstream, we could be looking at a balsam-free riverbank in a couple of years time once the seedbank has died off. Wishful thinking you say?? Well, there are plenty of willing and determined groups and individuals locally planning to do their bit in their patch over the next few weeks. If you've not had a chance to try this easy, fun and rewarding activity here at the university this year, why not go along to a local event and help out there?

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