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Thursday, July 5, 2012

Wed 4th July 2012 - Cycle Path at Alverstone.

Due to the wonderful British summer weather (what happened to drought and global warming?) the Green Gym session this week was rescheduled at very short notice. Several people had difficulty in finding the correct venue but all things considered we had a good turn-out. There were a couple of short showers during the morning but not enough for work to stop.....!

The task this week was very basic, try and uproot as many Himalayan Balsam plants as you can in 3 hours - no tools needed - just a strong back and a pair of gloves. Perhaps a good pair of wellies should be added to the list as the river bank areas were, to say the very least, rather wet underfoot. After a comprehensive briefing on how to recognise this pesky invader, (it looks similar to several "good" native plants) we were soon scouring the undergrowth. Nobody had to look too hard as once you got your eye in you realise that the whole area was covered with the darn stuff....! It is best described as having a long stem, similar to bamboo but has the structure of a stick of celery - that snaps easily if not pulled from as low down as possible. It is important to pull plants before they flower (the flowers are pink) as the seed pods are the exploding type that spread the seeds far away from the parent plant. For further details, see Carrie's Nature Lesson below. Good progress was made at clearing the nominated area but it is doubtful that this invader will ever be eliminated from the Island by Green Gym's efforts. It is easier to pull than ragwort and also gives us a change of scenery so can't be all bad....!

There is an  article in this week's (July 6th) County Press - Weekender - page 4 entitled "Fighting the invaders" which talks about Himalayan Balsam. Worth a look.......

Carrie's Nature Lesson.

Himalayan Balsam (Impatiens Glandulifera) was introduced to the UK in 1839 and is now a naturalised plant found especially on riverbanks and in waste places where it has become a problem weed.  It tolerates low light levels and also shades out other vegetation gradually impoverishing habitats by killing off other plants.  Because it dies back in the winter, this can lead to the erosion of riverbanks which has the potential to cause loss of habitat for water voles.
It grows to some 6-10 feet in height and produces clusters of purplish pink helmet shaped flowers between June and October.  The flowers are followed by seed pods containing up to 800 seeds which explode to spread theie contents up to a distance of seven metres.  Its common names are Policeman's Helmet, Bobby Tops, Copper Tops and Gnome's Hatstand, which originate from the hat shape of the flowers.

Many thanks to Carrie for the photographs and nature lesson.

And a couple of late photographs (thanks Mark!)

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