Himalayan balsam Impatiens glandulifera
The non-native, purplish-pink, Himalayan balsam grows in dense stands which overshadow surrounding plants. It needs to be heavily managed by cutting down the plant before it seeds.
Conservation status in Norfolk
Himalayan balsam is an aggressive, non-native plant. Dense stands suffocate other plants, so when it dies back in winter it leaves bare river banks which are more vulnerable to erosion. It also produces copious amounts of nectar which attracts pollinators away from native plants.
How to help
The most effective way of removing Himalayan balsam is to prevent it setting seed. This can be achieved by grazing, cutting or pulling out plants before seed heads have formed. Management needs to be continued annually until no more growth occurs.
As part of its Natural Connections project, Norfolk Wildlife Trust is working in partnership with the Norfolk County Council (Norfolk Biodiversity Partnership) to map the distribution of Himalayan balsam in Norfolk. The aim is to engage the general public in helping to find out where these species are found in Norfolk and help discover what impact they are having on Norfolk’s countryside. The survey will run from end February through to end October. For further information or a copy of the Freepost survey form telephone 01603 598333, or visit our website at
www.norfolkwildlifetrust.org.uk/naturalconnections/surveys were copies of the survey form can be downloaded.
Himalayan Balsam: Elizabeth Dack
Information on the Himalayan balsam
How to recognise
Himalayan balsam is not native to the UK, and was introduced from the western Himalayas in 1839 as a garden ornamental. It has since escaped and spread across the UK. Himalayan balsam is an annual plant, growing in dense stands up to 3 m in height. In fact, it is the tallest annual plant in Britain. It has hollow, jointed pinkish-red stems which are sappy and brittle. The leaves are shiny, dark green and spear-shaped with a dark red midrib, and up to 150 mm long. The flowers are fragrant, purplish-pink; slipper shaped and held on long stalks.
Where to see
The plant is now quite widespread in central and eastern Norfolk and is still expanding its range. It can be seen along the banks of rivers, in wet woodland and on waste ground, often growing in large dense clumps.
When to see
The plant grows from seed each year, germinating early in the spring and growing rapidly. It flowers between June and October, and is mainly pollinated by bees. Seeds set 12-14 weeks after flowering. The numerous seeds are widely scattered by an explosive seed capsule, and can travel along water ways into new areas.
Did you know?
Himalayan balsam has a number of alternative names – Indian balsam, Poor man’s orchid, and Policeman’s helmet, as the flowers resembles that particular headgear. Another name for the plant is kiss-me-on-the-mountain due to its connection with the Himalayan Mountains.
It is closely related to the common bedding plant Busy-Lizzie but is much bigger!
What is an alien wildlife species?
Himalayan balsam How do I recognise it?