List of YWT Nature Reserves (A-Z)

 

Sign up to our monthly e-newsletter

 

 Or opt into another list

Family Fun - latest news and events
Learning - for teachers and community group leaders

 

Back to blog listings


On the trail of the illusive Willow Herb fairy

Posted: Wednesday 5th July 2017 by LowerAireValley

Himalayan balsam - Credit Carys HuttonHimalayan balsam

If you have been one of those lucky enough to have been active with us during this balsam pulling season you'll already know just how much of this invasive alien we have pulled-up and laid to rest in huge heaps to decompose and hopefully die.

Yesterday we were at Rothwell Pastures again on - yes you've guest right, the Balsam from the Himalayas. After our massive attempt to control this invasive species on this site it has become obvious the water meadow there does look attractive and has definitely improved as a potential wildlife haven. This same task is repeated each year to reduce the aliens advance and this year there are indications that the years of pulling balsam is working.

Throughout the years we have been testing and tweaking method of controlling the Himalayan balsam. The dumping of pulled stalks are now collected into a series of bigger heaps as is practical and although this is more labour intensive having to walk back to the dump with handfuls of stalks each time, this means in following years any balsam that has re-rooted can be easily found in the location of these piles.
The other factor is that previously some balsam was slashed and although this may stop the flower head from producing seed it is still unproductive if the stalk is not severed below the first plant node as the plant will just regenerate.

Yesterday we concentrated on adapting these relatively new strategies but in order to reach the balsam you very often had to work your way through thick stands of rosebay willow herb. These plants produce very attractive flowers and are no doubt of value for our bees, likewise with Balsam the pollen contained on both these plants is plentiful and probably relied on by our pollinators.
However we are tasked yearly with the control of sometimes both these plants and I was interested in finding out a bit more about them.

It was revealed from my research that both of these were in fact brought into popularity by the Victorian gardeners but in the case of Willow Herb it was even mentioned in old country folk lore. In fact there was a poem written which spoke of a Willow Herb Fairy probably being associated with the wind-borne seeds that float skywards only to fall and later germinate and grow to colonise huge tracts of not only woodland edge but anywhere where there is an open sky:

On the breeze my fluff is blown;
So my airy seeds are sown.
Where the earth is burnt and sad,
I will come to make it glad.
All forlorn and ruined places,
All neglected empty spaces,
I can cover—only think!—
With a mass of rosy pink.
Burst then, seed-pods; breezes, blow!
Far and wide my seeds shall go!

(http://www.flowerfairies.com/rose-bay-willow-herb-fairy/)

Bomb-sites during and after the Second World War were one of the first places this plant took over and hence was named Bomb Herb. However that's not all folks there is on record that this plant is the host for the Elephant Hawk Moth and that was the theme of my search yesterday as I diligently looked for any evidence but alas I would have been better off looking for the fairy.

Lots to tell you yet as Laura is at the end of her traineeship and next week we are having a little barbecue to say goodbye and I am sure you will all join me in wishing her good luck in being able to secure a new position soon. This is not all bad as at the same event we'll be welcoming her replacement Peter and so for those who can get to Waterhaigh next Tuesday you'll be welcome with burgers and some good 'craick'

See you out there,
Pete.
 

Read LowerAireValley's latest blog entries.

Comments

    Your article is very nice thank you for share this information. Its very useful for all peoples there are all possibilities to provide for this blog. I am a writer working with best essay writing service(https://waltessays.com/) it will give us the best choice of writing service for your academic life. 

    Monday 7th August 2017
    by Brown

Your article is very nice thank you for share this information. Its very useful for all peoples there are all possibilities to provide for this blog. I am a writer working with best essay writing service(https://waltessays.com/) it will give us the best choice of writing service for your academic life. 

Monday 7th August 2017
by Brown