Balsam, Indian

Information on Indian Balsam

Common Name: Indian Balsam
Scientific Name: Impatiens glandulifera
Irish Name: Lus na pléisce
Family Group: Balsaminaceae
Distribution: View Map (Courtesy of the BSBI)
Flowering Period

Click for list of all flowering by month
Indian Balsam is not easily confused with other wild plants on this web site.

This is a very handsome plant, whatever one might say about its invasive habits.  Just look closely at the flower and be amazed at its design.  Borne in loose racemes each large (25-40mm long) pink flower seems to be made up of three petals - the upper petal is helmet-like and the two lower petals form a lip. There is also a short spur into which insects go for nectar, thus ensuring pollination.  The hairless leaves are opposite or in whorls of three to five, with the flowers growing out of the leaf axils.  The seed distribution method is very efficient: the fruit capsule explodes when ripe and expels the seeds far and wide.  Each plant is capable of expelling up to 800 seeds up to a distance of seven metres. Flowering from July to October, these tall plants can grow beyond two metres in height.  This is not a native plant – it was introduced from the Himalayas at least two centuries ago – but has established itself and sadly displaces some of our native flora.  It tends to grow along river banks and waste ground.  In Britain this plant is also known as 'Policeman's Helmet' due to its shape, and 'Poor Man's Orchid'. It is a relative of the well-known 'Busy Lizzie' and belongs to the family Balsaminaceae.  

I first found this plant growing in Crolly, Co Donegal in 1980 and photographed it in 2007 also in Donegal. 

If you are satisfied you have correctly identified this plant, please submit your sighting to the National Biodiversity Data Centre

'Orchid-lipped, loose-jointed, purplish, indolent flowers,with a ripe smell of peaches, like a girls' breath through lipstick,delicate and coarse in the weedlap of late summer rivers,dishevelled, weak-stemmed, common as brambles, '

From 'Himalayan Balsam' by Anne Stevenson.

Poems 1955-2005  (Bloodaxe Books, 2005)


Balsam, Indian
Balsam, Indian
Balsam, Indian