Himalayan balsam flowers are irregularly shaped and can be pink, white or purple. Photo by Barbara Tokarska-Guzik, University of Silesia, Bugwood.org.
COMMON NAME:Himalayan Balsam
SCIENTIFIC NAME:Impatiens glandulifera
ORIGIN:Western Himalayan Mountains
DESCRIPTION:Himalayan balsam is an annual herb that produces irregularly shaped, pink to purple colored flowers. The multi-branched hollow stems can grow up to 10 feet tall (more commonly 2-6 feet tall) and are green or reddish in color. Its leaves are in whorls of three that are lance shaped with serrate margins and grow to about 6” long, and 1”- 3” wide. A musty scent may be produced from crushing the leaves. Similar to other ‘touch-me-not’ species, this plant produces fruit that bursts at maturity when disturbed.
HABITAT:Himalayan balsam thrives in lowlands, riparian zones, wetlands and disturbed areas. This species is also shade tolerant and can grow in wet meadows or in forested areas. It is intolerant of drought.
THREAT:Large infestations of this species can draw pollinators away from native plant species with its extremely sweet nectar. The plant’s prolific seed production allows it to easily escape cultivation and form thick colonies that reduce native biodiversity. Lastly, its shallow root system and annual lifecycle contribute to increased rates of erosion.
The shallow root system of Himalayan balsam makes the manual removal of small infestations highly effective, but this management must be completed prior to the production of its flowers and seeds. The entire plant should be disposed of in a landfill-bound trash bag. Chemical controls are effective, but the presence of this species in wet areas may limits the availability of this method.
WNY PRISM PRIORITY:
Tier 1 - Raise Awareness
NYS Invasive Species Tiers Chart - Tier Definitions
NYS Prohibited and Regulated Species - Part 575:
PATHWAYS OF INVASION:
Himalayan balsam seeds can spread up to 20’ away from the parent plant when its seedpods burst. Water frequently aids in the transport of seeds long distances. This plant is not on the Prohibited and Regulated Species list and may also be introduced through the horticulture trade.
Himalayan balsam is in the nearby Finger Lakes PRISM region.