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Saturday, 18 July 2015

Himalayan Balsam

Does any one know if the seeds of Himalayan Balsam are spread by mammals (or birds)?

Yesterday I was pulling some Balsam from an area that has been mostly eradicated of it over previous years. The only ones left are not the usual individuals but widely separated clumps comprising individuals of up to a dozen within a few inches square of ground.
I have never seen it grow like this and it looked as though a rodent may have stashed quantities of seed. It certainly made it easy to pull the lot in one go!

This may be a reason why Balsam suddenly appears in new places where there is non nearby.

I have googled this query and can find no reference to animals or birds eating the seeds. I can't believe this doesn't happen--but why has it not been recorded?


Colin D said...

Enjoy http://www.eatweeds.co.uk/himalayan-balsam-seed-curry-recipe

Colin D said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Philip said...

Thanks Colin. With the number of seeds produced by this plant it remains a puzzle why flocks of birds or mammal fests aren't recorded, especially as humans have found them palatable.

Steve Blacksmith said...

I haven't tried eating the seeds. They may be cookable. I regularly eat the unripe pods. See the entry in Flora Brittanica (Ed. Richard Mabey). They're not as tasty as some salads, but nice enough when you're on a long walk and run out of snacks, and high enough to reassure me they don't need washing.

I've never seen any animal or bird feeding on any part of the plant.

Most seeds that are spread by animals/birds are the kinds inside fleshy fruits. The animal eats the fruit, ingests the seed incidentally, and carries it around for a while until it comes through the gut. It gets deposited along with some useful fertiliser.

Himalayan Balsam is definitely a seed shooter, like Broom etc.
It will almost certainly also get carried along by water at times, and lodged in things like bags and clothing.

Steve Blacksmith said...

Sorry, I hadn't read your post carefully enough, Philip.
Yes your description does sound like something has collected the seed and stored it.
I've seen that effect with grain near gardens when a crow or jay has collected a cropful from the bird table and buried it.

Finlay Duncan said...

Hi Philip, excellent resource for the Halifax area!
Was hoping your organisation and members can help us protect nature in Europe. The European Commission's looking at reviewing the Birds and Habitats Directives, the very laws that have increased the numbers of many at-risk bird and animal species in Europe and that have led to the creation of thousands of conservation sites around the EU.
We think these important laws should be safeguarded, not undermined! A public consultation on the issue closes this Friday and we're trying to get everyone to have their say. More information is available here: http://www.tiny.cc/naturealert - every voice counts!

Steve Blacksmith said...

I've been thinking about the clumps of seedlings.
Could they be from pods that have been trodden into the soil?
This might happen if the seeds are viable before the capsule pops.

That's an easy thing to find out by experiment. Must try it.