Identify Himalayan Balsam

HIMALAYAN BALSAM (Impatiens glandulifera)

Himalayan Balsam - Impatiens glandulifera

How to Identify Himalayan Balsam

Common names
Himalayan Balsam, Indian Balsam, Bobby Tops, Copper Tops, Gnome’s Hatstand, Ornamental Jewelweed, Policeman’s Helmet, Kiss-me-on-the-Mountain

Botanical name
Impatiens glandulifera

Meaning of botanical name
Impatiens is from the Latin for impatient, referring to how the seed pods burst open. Glandulifera means to have have flowers with glands

Known hazards
This plants is a non-native invasive and eradication programmes are in place in many parts of the UK. Some people have displayed allergies to Himalayan Balsam’s pollen.

Could be confused with 
The flowers are very distinctive, so it would be difficult to confuse with other species

Food plant of
Very popular with pollinators. However, the big showy flowers distract from native species.

Range and distribution
Invasive and established across the globe

Most commonly found along waterways, but can grow away from water. It was introduced to the UK in 1839 as garden plant

Physical characteristics
Tall stems reaching up to 2m in height. The stalk is has a reddish tinge. Flowers are pink and shaped like helmets, and the seed pods explode when gently touched.

Edible use
The seedings, young shoots, leaves, flowers and seeds are all edible. The seeds give a nice crunch and texture to salads, while the flowers and young shoots can be made into jams

It is a relative of the Busy Lizzie. The hollow stalks can be used as a straw.

Tips and Observations
When harvesting the seeds, carefully place a carrier bag over the tops of the plants and close the neck of the bag with you hand. This action alone should be enough to cause the seed heads to explode and catch all the seeds. Remember to tip the bag right way up before removing your hand.

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