Himalayan balsam (Policeman’s helmet)
About This Species
Himalayan balsam is also known as Policeman’s helmet. Originally from the Himalayan region of South Asia, this plant can take over areas with moist soils, including stream and riverbanks. It produces a lot of plant nectar which can attract bees and other pollinating insects to Himalayan balsam instead of other naturally occurring plants. This plant has seed pods that when ripe, can explode or shoot seeds up to 7 m from the plant.
How to Identify
Himalayan balsam grows from 0.6 to 2 m tall and has purplish hollow stems with many branches. Flowers range in colour from white, pink, and purple. The flowers are hooded in shape which gives it the appearance of traditional English police helmets.
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Hand pulling or cutting and bagging the plants in flower are effective forms of control. This plant is easily pulled of the ground. It is important to note that this kind of control must be done before seed pods are ready to explode, otherwise the slightest disturbance will cause seeds to shoot out, resulting in more plants the following year.
Himalayan balsam Factsheet
If you need advice about invasive species on your property or you are concerned about reported invasives in your local area, contact your local government or regional invasive species organization.
Learn about best practices
A few non-invasive alternatives to plant instead of Himalayan balsam (Policeman’s helmet) include:
- Beardtongue (Penstemon barbatus)
- Pacific bleeding heart (Dicentra formosa)
- Pink monkey flower (Mimulus lewisii)
- Pink turtle (Chelone lyonii, C. oblique)
- Red columbine (Aquilegia formosa)