THE River Devon and its banks are awash with non-native species, some of which are benign but others – such as the American mink – which can have a severe environmental impact.

One of the more troublesome plant species is Himalayan balsam, which grows in profusion by the Devon and is becoming increasingly abundant with each passing year.

Himalayan balsam was introduced into gardens in the mid-1800s and soon escaped to colonise the countryside.

It is particularly profuse along river courses because their exploding seed capsules (each plant can carry 800 or so seeds) can fling seeds a reasonable distance, which are then carried downstream in the water flow to colonise new areas.

Unfortunately, their tall invasive growth shades out native plants and the die-back of extensive stands over winter can leave riverbanks bare and exposed to erosion, which can lead to siltation of trout and salmon spawning grounds.

In addition, while pollinators adore balsam, it creates a further problem in that their brassy blooms detrimentally lure nectar-seeking insects away from native flowers, upsetting the natural equilibrium.

As such, I was delighted to participate in a recent community initiative in Dollar to eradicate Himalayan balsam along a local stretch of the river.

Organised by David Louden and the Dollar Community Development Trust, a small team of enthusiastic volunteers targeted locations along the river where balsam was especially abundant, pulling the plants out by hand. The roots of balsam are shallow and are relatively easy to pull from the soil.

David first became aware of the extent of the Himalayan balsam problem a couple of years ago and was keen to do something about it.

This resulted in the organisation of the first community balsam control event last year, which already seems to have paid dividends, with the plants being less prolific in some areas.

Pupils from Dollar Academy have also been involved this year in eradication work, and organisations such as the Devon Angling Association are continually involved in balsam control.

David says: "It is great to have the support of the Dollar community in looking after their local river, and this is a long-term initiative where control work will need to be carried out each year."

Whilst it would be nigh-on impossible to completely eradicate Himalayan balsam from the Devon, the aim is to keep this invasive plant at manageable levels, and it is wonderful to see community spirit helping to ensure our precious native flora and fauna can prosper.