Trust to use new technique to tackle highly invasive plant

The county’s largest nature conservation charity is to tackle a highly invasive plant at one of its reserves – by using an innovative new technique.

For many years, Himalayan Balsam has caused problems across sites across the country, including at the Trust’s Jackson’s Marsh reserve, and has established itself across Britain along riverbanks and wetlands since being brought over by the Victorians in the 1800s.

Since then, it has shown no signs of slowing – its explosive seed dispersal method means it can spread easily and quickly.

But thankfully, conservationists working for Staffordshire Wildlife Trust have a new weapon in the armoury, and it is a type of fungus.

Researchers have found that a rust fungus species is a natural enemy to Himlayan balsam in its native range of the Himalayas. They have been testing it to see if it can be used here without infecting any of our native species. The fungus has been found to be very host specific and in 2014 it was approved for release; it is the first fungal biological control agent to be used in the European Union.

There have already been releases in other counties across England and Wales, this year will see it released at a select number of sites in Staffordshire, starting with Staffordshire Wildlife Trust reserve Jackson’s Marsh.

Reserves Officer Lucy O’ Toole said: “Pulling the Himalayan balsam at Jackson’s Marsh has been a thankless task for many years now.

We are very excited to see if this fungus has an effect and enables the beautiful native flora of the marsh to thrive.”