Seil Chat

Aliens on the Island!!!
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Author:  Stevie Jarron [ Tue Jul 01, 2014 1:17 pm ]
Post subject:  Aliens on the Island!!!

Hi there,

I'm Stevie, new to the island, having just bought a house in Clachan Seil. We (Christine and I) have been regulars to the island for years and finally have made the move. Hope to meet up and get to know you all in the coming weeks as we move stuff through on Thursday.

One thing I noticed (as an Ecologist) on the last couple of visits to the house and along Clachan Seil is Himalayan Balsam cropping up in a few places near the bridge and right along to where we are near Sealife Adventures. I don't know how extensive the problem is but I do know that early tackling of the problem is always the best course of action.

Himalayan Balsam, is a relatively attractive plant but like all Invasive Non Native Species (INNS) it is out of its range and has no natural control measures. It therefore will grow out of control, displacing all native shrub plants until there is a monoculture of just the one species left. While this will not directly affect any of us, in time as native plants disappear, so too will the insects that rely on them and then will vanish the other animals that rely on them and the plants.

Thankfully, control of Himalayan Balsam is one of the easier INNS to tackle. The plant flower in July and goes to seed in August. If the plant is damaged or pulled before the seed head forms, then the seed bank for next year's growth is disrupted. And unlike many other INNS the seeds from previous years are rarely viable. So pull all the plant heads this year and there should be none next year!

It may take a few years of collective work but it is totally possible to rid the island of Himalayan Balsam. First thing is obviously to find it in your own garden or land and tackle that, then to map where it is elsewhere and work together to knock it back.

This could be a good starting point for wider environmental issue tackling on the island!

Cheers Stevie

Author:  NickB [ Wed Jul 02, 2014 12:32 am ]
Post subject:  Re: Aliens on the Island!!!

Hi Stevie,

Welcome to the forum.

As you say, it is an attractive plant, so your prescription seems a little harsh. Your reasons seem sound, but it is hardly The Day of the Triffids


Is it too invasive to allow any to survive?

Author:  Stevie Jarron [ Wed Jul 02, 2014 7:57 am ]
Post subject:  Re: Aliens on the Island!!!

Hi Nick,

Sadly it spreads so fast that even the best willed gardener will lose control of it. The seeds heads ping the seeds up to 10 metres from the plant. This means the plant can spread beyond walls and fences, cross roads and rivers and as they are small round seeds, get easily blown along roads by the draft from passing cars.

So a patch in your garden could "infect" untended ground over 100 feet away and flourish.

It is a rival for Japanese Knotweed and Rhododendrum Ponticum for its invasive qualities - even if it does appear a more slight plant once it dominates an area, little else can grow.


Author:  jimcee [ Wed Jul 02, 2014 3:45 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Aliens on the Island!!!

This plant has appeared in my garden - almost an acre - and has taken over about a third of it in about 2 years. I pull up what I can but the thought of dealing with every plant currently in the garden would require me to spend more time in the garden than I do in bed.
So what is the answer ?

Author:  Stevie Jarron [ Wed Jul 02, 2014 9:33 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Aliens on the Island!!!

Hi Jim,

Where are you on the island?

Pulling the plants bodily from the round, root and all is the best way to rid your garden of them. This is a time consuming task on an area of 1/3 acre but will rid you of (most of) them by next year (you will miss a few).

Another method is to whack them with a stick. As long as you remove the flowering head or snap the stem so the plant can't nourish it then you've halted the seeding regeneration of the plant. They are annual so will not regrow next year and the seed bank is only viable for one year.

I've tried sand irons, broom handles, sticks, strimmers, stomping and many more methods.

Best thing is a big group of people working together. It really gets a head of steam up and you cover a huge area really quickly.


Author:  NickB [ Fri Jul 04, 2014 12:42 am ]
Post subject:  Re: Aliens on the Island!!!


I ripped up the HB round my compost bin today.

It was threatening my giant fennel plant.

Author:  James Fenton [ Fri Jul 04, 2014 4:59 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Aliens on the Island!!!

I fully support the control of Himalayan balsam: hoick it out if you see it in a ditch beside the road! It is getting bad at the start of the path to Polldoran beside the Taigh nan Truish. Perhaps a work party needed? I have also seen it running rampant at a location on the Ardnamuchan peninsula. I was also in Devon recently where I noted it had completely taken over the banks of the lower reaches of the River Dart: a huge problem if left unchecked - although grazing might control it if there are sheep??

Other invasives are also a problem/potential problem in the area: I note that spraying has not fully controlled the Japanese knotweed on the road to Kilninver - follow-up will be needed. Was it Scottish Water who sprayed initially?

Gunnera manicata/tinctoria (the huge giant rhubarb thing) is also beginning to colonise the wild - e.g. after the bridge on the left. I noticed recently that a Cotoneaster species is colonising the cliff behind An Cala - a species that has long-term potential to cause major problems in inaccessible places. It is for example colonising the habitat of the rare slender Scotch burnet moth on Mull. And people still have Rhododendron x superponticum in their gardens - storing up trouble for the future. As for Montbretia, it is colonising in many places - although probably a lost cause?

The problem of invasives is made worse by those who dump garden waste over the garden fence (I hope I am not stirring up a hornet's nest here!)...

Stevie - thanks for raising the issue.

Author:  Stevie Jarron [ Sun Jul 06, 2014 8:51 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Aliens on the Island!!!

Hi James,

I have spent the last two days completely cutting back our over grown garden.

The canopy is buddleia, bracken, brambles

The understory is Montbretia with some Himalayan Balsam and more brambles thrown in for fun.

Also dense stands of a tall shrub (up to 2 metres) pink to purple bell flower heads. Can't get the name of it? I see a lot of it about. 'll iSpot it to get its name.

Perhaps a pub meeting in the morning (9 ish one Saturday or Sunday) Then a walk around Clachan Seil in a group pulling HB as it is found. Work it in a loop to end up back at the pub for a celebratory beer?


Author:  NickB [ Sun Jul 06, 2014 9:25 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Aliens on the Island!!!


You are more likely to stir up a hornets' nest with your spelling than with your botanical observations :tiphat

~ Puilladobhrain

~ Tigh an Truish

~ Ardnamurchan

Author:  Alice Wilson [ Mon Jul 07, 2014 10:57 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Aliens on the Island!!!

I've started pulling up the several large patches of HB in my garden .... it was definitely taking over my nettle patch ! Thanks for the warning, I had previously been leaving it as I did think it was quite pretty but it was spreading too quickly. I had a look for it whilst walking the dog. Biggest patch I saw was on wild land between the road and the shore opposite Camus Nan Eun.

Stevie, is your plant a Weigela , escallonia or fuchsia ?


Author:  Stevie Jarron [ Mon Jul 07, 2014 11:45 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Aliens on the Island!!!

Hi Alice,

I looked up all 3 of your suggestions, but none fit my unknown plant. There are some specimens still alive over the road next to Sealife Adventures' place (between the forest of Buddleia), I'll take a photo or two.

I need to get a big blown up map of the island and start marking some of these places down. It makes a big difference to know where the main areas of control are needed and just a useful to know where the creep of invasives are occurring. There may be a need to abandon an area to the invasive and keep a control on the peripheral areas. I've done that in a Local Nature Reserve, pick your battles, sort of thing.

With HB, gravity is on our side. It seeds up hill slowly as it can't ping its seeds as far. Downhill and along roads, paths and waterways is its main route of spread. So you work down the contours/rivers and along the paths/roads to the centre of the outbreak.

Cheers Stevie

Author:  James Fenton [ Wed Jul 09, 2014 8:55 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Aliens on the Island!!!

Your suggestion of a walk around the island pulling up Himalayan balsam is a good idea, Stevie. Could discuss it when we meet tomorrow? (Thurs 10th)?

Your pink-flowered plant is probably a Spiraea - can spread and take over.

Nick - I was lazy and chose to use the anglicised version of Puilladobhrain; 'taigh' is an alternative spelling of 'tigh' which I used unthinkingly for the T&T; Ardnamuchan was a typo...


Author:  NickB [ Fri Jul 11, 2014 8:42 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Aliens on the Island!!!

I wasn't aware that there was an anglicised version of Puilladobhrain - where did you come across it?

Author:  Stevie Jarron [ Sat Sep 20, 2014 8:43 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Aliens on the Island!!!

Hi all,

Have had a pretty good walk round the island over the summer.

Too late now to pull Himalayan Balsam, all you'll do is spread the seeds further (unless you are very careful).

But the problem is not insurmountable. We can deal with it come spring next year.

One thing that really worries me is that i've just found Japanese Knotweed on the island. It is a bad one. It spreads like wildfire. It needs special care (legally) to remove it or you'll make it worse. It cracks foundations. It will lower the price of your house if it appears in a home report (has happened south of here, houses valued at ZERO as the land NEAR them has Japanese Knotweed).

If you do have it, there is now a regulation (WANE act 2011) that will see you prosecuted if it spreads to your neighbours property. The local Authority do have a duty of care to make remedial action to remove it. That means they will access your property and spay it and send you the bill. If your neighbour has it (and ALL else fails) you can report it to the council.

Lets look at this one then!

Cheers Stevie

Author:  Stevie Jarron [ Mon May 25, 2015 8:51 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Aliens on the Island!!!

Hi All,

That is us moved to the island permanently! Yay! Lots of tidying and putting away of stuff ahead (probably for months!).

One thing that took a bit of our time was dealing with the spring growth in the garden. And yes, back again is the Himalayan Balsam!!! At this time of year they look like little beetroot shoots; green leaves with a purple stripe down the centre. Pulling them is easy while there are no nettles and brambles around them and make the job easier than later in the year.

I’m keen and happy to help out with others infestation (I do get the irony of the latest addition to the island being keen to root out Invasive Non Native Species - INNS). This really is an INNS that can be beaten and a coordinated effort over the next few years could see it eradicated.

There is also a small patch of Japanese Knotweed I’ve spotted on the road between Cnoc a Chaltuinn and the Tigh and Truish. This is a reportable species and the council should react and spray. This is one species you DO NOT want to get a hold on the island. Houses down south have been valued at £ZERO when JK was spotted growing in nearby land.

Let me know where you are and the level of HB on your land and we can coordinate a community pull!!???

Cheers Stevie - 056

Author:  Donny Reynolds [ Mon May 25, 2015 9:12 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Aliens on the Island!!!

Glad to hear your move is complete, don't envy the unpacking though.
As for the HB, we had loads of it in and around the garden. I have been ripping it out over the past 2 years..... Not seen any shoots at the moment but will be keeping my eyes peeled. I did work for the National Trust near Ripon a few years back and that was one of the major species they kept trying to get rid of so I knew what I had here.
Fingers crossed I have managed to rid the garden from it at least. If I can, I will try to help you in the Island quest to rid INNS.



Author:  Stevie Jarron [ Sat May 30, 2015 6:14 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Aliens on the Island!!!

Willing to help anyone with a Himalayan Balsam problem.

Anyone else willing to give it a bash?

The more the merrier.


Author:  Stevie Jarron [ Fri Jun 12, 2015 12:12 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Aliens on the Island!!!

Hi there.

How about meeting at the bridge carpark and next Saturday 20th June, say about 10 am.

A good place to start would be at the top of the small road behind the Tigh an Truish up at the gate where the pathway to Puilladobhrain begins.

We could pull the Himalayan Balsam from there down to the bridge.

From there we can retire to the pub to share details of where anyone else knows there are outbreaks. How does that sound?

Author:  jimcee [ Sat Jun 13, 2015 9:10 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Aliens on the Island!!!

I applaud your eforts at dealing with Himalayan Balsam.
But is it the dire threat to all else growing in my garden?
I have almost an acre of ground in which over time, I have managed to eradicate bracken, and to a lesser extent bramble and gorse.
Rhododendron, and rowan continue to flourish plus one or two other shrubs which have appeared from nowhere.
The cultivated area of my garden seems to have been invaded by this balsam thing - from where it came I know not - but will it really take over completely and choke out everything else ? Over the last year - although it has advanced considerably, most of the other native species ,bluebell and the cultivated fruit trees and bushes, have held their own.
As a professed expert on the subject, I would appreciate an assessment of the current situation from yourself, on whether I have a problem - eradication of every HB plant showing it's face is not an option that is really feasible.
Your comments would be welcome.

Author:  Stevie Jarron [ Mon Jun 15, 2015 8:32 am ]
Post subject:  Re: Aliens on the Island!!!

Hi Jim,

There are a few angles to this subject.

Ecologically – a non-native plant will either struggle or fail to adapt to a new environment, or become invasive. The ones which are invasive will take over ground from native plants. Every plant you see has taken the space, nutrient and sunlight that would have contained a native plant. That plant was part of a complex food web that other native species needed. Its absence degrades the local environment by just a tiny fraction, but so does the next one and the next and the next.

A run away infestation of an invasive such as Himalayan Balsam will take over 1/8 to ¼ of the island total flora. It will do it at a lightning pace and as you own words profess, appears from nowhere and takes over completely. Gardens, farmland and wild places.

Ethically or morally - we have a responsibility or duty to the stewardship of the land we profess to own for our short time on this earth. Humans have degraded and changed the natural environment, often with little thought or care of the consequences. Allowing a non-native plant, either by our action or inaction to consume our native spaces is nothing short of an indefensible act of vandalism.

Legally – the WANE Act (The Wildlife and Natural Environment (Scotland) Act 2011) brought in new provisions governing the introduction of non-native species in Scotland. Non-native species (those plants and animals which have found their way to a new habitat through human activity) can be harmful to our environment.
This amends existing legislation and adds powers to the original, so now under the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981, it is now an offence of strict liability for any person;
• to release, allow to escape from captivity or otherwise cause any animal outwith the control of any person to be at a place outwith its native range
• plant, or otherwise cause to grow any plant in the wild at a place outwith its native range
• keep certain invasive species (see Schedule 1 Part 2 of theOrder for the full list )

Practically – invasive plants such as Himalayan Balsam and Japanese Knotweed will not just unobtrusively blend in to our native flora. They will always crash into a new area explosively, taking over every piece of ground they can. The only management is eradication and the sooner the better. The problem grows exponentially with each season.

Nipping these INNS before they take over is the goal of this thread and a community effort can win this one. Himalayan Balsam can be knocked back and eradicated if we get all hands to the pumps. The small amount of Japanese Knotweed on the island can be beaten if we are vigilant for its appearance and proper steps are taken to control it where it is found.

This Saturday we can discuss a strategy on how we tackle the island’s collective problem of INNS.

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