|Giant Hogweed - Little Quaggy 2011|
The plant also has a stem covering of spines, which are unpleasant, therefore the giant hogweed has no redeeming features apart from looking impressive and monstrous. So how is this plant removed from our greenspaces? Well, it can be dug up, often requiring a JCB if the stand and root system is large, it can be poisoned and it can be decapitated to prevent the seed head forming. One extraordinary feature of the giant hogweed is that following poisoning and having its head chopped off it often quickly produces a seed head as its last act of defiance, this quickly disperses as the plant topples. As an invasive species it is without rival, however there are other species on the invasive hitlist that may be less deserving.
Himalayan balsam was introduced to Kew Gardens in 1839 and rapidly became a domestic garden favourite. The balsam we see in the wild is a garden escapee, in fact people still grow Himalayan balsam in the garden as it has attractive pink flowers which give the plant its common name of Policeman’s Helmet. It is a prolific seed producer with each plant producing 5000 seeds, or 600 per metre from the base. The downside to balsam is that it produces a canopy that crowds out other species while its nector production is such that it attracts the most pollinaters. Again, the Himalayan balsam prefers river banks and as such compromises the viability of berms and other substrates, thus increasing flood potential.
|Chris with balsam stem 2010|
So really, what are we trying to protect by culling these flora? It seems that Darwin’s idea of natural selection and adaptation has been anthropomorphed into an archaic regime of man’s dominance over nature. This is a kind of Cartesian duality of our time, but if we are to aspire to lives closer to our environment then a more rigorous, and accepting, regime of ecology would surely allow these species to do what they want while we learn to coexist.