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Offenders Control the Growth of the Himalayan Balsam in Pärnu and Viljandi

Himalayan Balsam. Photo: Eike Vunk
Himalayan Balsam. Photo: Eike Vunk

This year, a dangerous alien species harmful to the local vegetation and that is rapidly spreading, is being weeded along the banks of the river Pärnu and the lake Viljandi to prevent that this plant woud spread any further.

Last summer, under the agreement on cooperation between the Environmental Board and Pärnu Probation Supervision Department of the Tallinn Prison, community service workers weeded the heaps of the Himalayan balsam on an area of approximately one hectare on the banks of the river Pärnu. The cooperation is considered effective, which is why this year the banks of the river Pärnu are kept clean of the alien species. This summer, the community has already mowed the same area and weeded out from any alien species, repeating this action twice more, for no plants would be left unweeded. The long-term results of the work should be reflected in the diminishment in plant numbers with the next year’s view.

"As weeding is a unharmful and easy manner to contribute to the environmental conservation, the Viljandi City Government has followed the example of Pärnu and is planning to stop the spreading of the Himalayan balsam colony along the banks of lake Viljandi in cooperation with the Viljandi representation office of the Tartu Probation Supervision Department of the Tartu Prison," explained Eike Vunk, Chief Species Conservation Specialist for the Species Conservation Bureau of the Environmental Board.

The Himalayan balsam is an ornamental flowering plant from the Himalayas, which has come to Estonia via the activity of some gardening enthusiasts. The plant grows in large and dense clusters mainly in damp and semi-shaded edge plant communities, for example, in the vicinity of water bodies, roads and forests. The plant, with has large purple and pink blossoms, is beautiful in appearance, but is in fact one of the greatest plagues in Europe, North America and Australia, as the rapid spread of the plant, the indigenous native plant species tend to disappear. If the growth of the plant is not controlled, the Himalayan balsam will conquer enormous areas of land, driving our native plants out of these areas.

The species is on the European list of invasive alien species and its cultivation and reproduction is strictly prohibited. It is also necessary to control it, in order to stop the further spread of the plant. In compliance with the Alien and Invasive Species Management Plan, the most important activity is to inform people not to grow the Himalayan balsam in the backyard nor bring their garden waste into the wild. The most effective method of destroying the balsam is weeding or weed removal of the balsam. The plants should be weeded for at least for three years, as this is the period when the seeds remain germinated in the soil. If the plants are constantly weeded throughout the summer, before the seeds mature, there is hope of exterminating the colony within three years.

The Environmental Board is waiting for information about the growing grounds of the Himalayan balsam across Estonia on

More information:
Eike Vunk
Chief Species Conservation Specialist for the Species Conservation Bureau of the Environmental Board
telephone: +372 5699 6334

Sille Ader
Spokesperson of the Environmental Board
telephone: +372 5745 0332

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