Himalayan Balsam (Impatiens glandulifera) -Ecological Profile

Written by: Kyra Mckenna, Alex Hristovski, Sabrina Luppino, and Ian Henderson

Figure 1: Himalayan Balsam, Impatiens glandulifera. (Landry, 2006)


Impatiens glandulifera can be found dispersed throughout the world. It is native to Northern India, specifically the Himalayan Mountains, was introduced in the United Kingdom, and has spread to Europe, Austria, the Baltic Region, Czech Republic, French Pyrenees, Germany, Holland, Hungary, the Mediterranean, Poland, southern Russia, Slovakia, southern Sweden, Switzerland, and former Yugoslavia (Clements, Feenstra, Jones & Staniforth, 2007).  In Canada, It appears in British Columbia, Manitoba, Southern Ontario, Quebec, Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, Prince Edward Island, and Newfoundland. In the United States it occurs in 10 states, one being Alaska (Tanner, Jin, Shaw, Murphy & Gange, 2014), (Clements et al., 2007).

Figure 2: Areas highlighted in red indicate documented recordings of Himalayan Balsam, Impatiens glandulifera. (Map designed by Kyra Mckenna; distribution information from Clements et al., 2007; base map from ESRI, 2015).
Figure 3: Inset map of Himalayan Balsam, Impatiens glandulifera documented recordings. (Map designed by Kyra Mckenna; distribution information from Clements et al., 2007; base map from ESRI, 2015).


The Himalayan Balsam plant has a defined presence in riparian habitats and wetlands in areas it has been introduced, while in its native habitat it is found in deciduous and mixed forests (Clements et al., 2008).  In order for this species to thrive and grow it needs moist nutrient rich soils with moderate soil disturbance (Clements et al., 2008). Another factor that impacts the growth is the amount of sunlight it receives as it is a partially shade tolerant plant (Greenwood & Kuhn, 2014). Considering the plant is non-native it has still effectively established itself throughout Ontario, making it an invasive species that shades out native plants growing underneath it (Greenwood & Kuhn, 2014).  Because Himalayan Balsam is adapted to living in cool climates due to its native habitat , this relates to why it has distributed throughout northern areas in Ontario which can reach all the way up to the Thunder Bay and Dryden area (Greenwood & Kuhn, 2014).

Potential for Infestation r-strat_plant_yellow

Most reproductive characteristics of Impatiens glandulifera support the description of r-strategists. Many seeds are expelled from the plant during a single event in their lifespan, which grow rapidly and live a short life, indicating a population could easily recover from a bottleneck (Clements et al., 2007). Table 1 summarizes the characteristics Impatiens glandulifera holds.

Table 1: Summary of reproductive characteristics of the species Himalayan Balsam, Impatiens glandulifera. This species best aligns with the reproductive characteristics of a r-strategist. (Created by Luppino, S)



Himalayan Balsam has a low probability of survival when it is young and a higher probability when it’s older. This is a survivorship curve of Type III (see Figure 3). Himalayan Balsam grows tall and strong with age but when it is young has a lower chance of survival due to the amount of threats (Cabi, 2017). Threats to the young mainly include humans as well as other mammals stepping over them and causing disturbance.


Figure 4: A survivorship curve chart displaying the path of types I, II, and III species. Himalayan Balsam, Impatiens glandulifera, is a type III species. (Molles & Cahill, 2014)

Dispersal and Vectors




Prolifically creates seeds and releases them by exploding its seed pod between the months of August to October. Spreading them over a distance of three to five meters by wind ensures this species will obtain genetic diversity, even without the ability to create fruit to facilitate gene spread. Humans are a vector of the Himalayan Balsam, given its long distance spread from Asia to Europe as well as North America, due to their fast growing nature and orchid shaped flower (Ammer, 2011). An additional vector of Himalayan Balsam seeds are bodies of water. When a seed lands in the water, it can drift for a long distance before ending up on a shore line.

Special considerations

It is able to outcompete other species even when they are already established and it is considered the tallest annual plant in Europe. Shallow roots make it unable to limit nutrients for other species (Ammer, 2011). In British Colombia and France, the stems and leaves of Himalayan Balsam have been found to contain naphthaquinone, an allelopathic metabolite (Clements, et al., 2007).

Many nurseries sell Himalayan Balsam under many names including: Himalayan balsam (most common), Impatiens glandulifera (Latin), and cultivar names including Policeman’s helmet, Custodian’s helmet, Kiss me on the mountain, Jewelweed, Indian balsam, and Jumping jacks (Hubert, K. P.C.)


Ammer, C., Schall, P., Wördehoff, R., Lamatsch, K., & Bachmann, M. (2011). Does tree seedling growth and survival require weeding of Himalayan balsam ( Impatiens glandulifera)?. European Journal Of Forest Research, 130(1), 107. doi:10.1007/s10342-010-0413-0

Cabi. (2017). Invasive Species Compendium. Retrieved from Impatiens glandulifera (Himalayan balsam): http://www.cabi.org/isc/datasheet/28766

Clements, R. D., Feenstra, R. K., Jones, K., & Staniforth, R. (2007, November). The Biology of Invasive Plants in Canada. 9. Impatiens glandulifera Royle. Canadian Journal of Plant Science. 88, 403-417.

DAISIE – Species Factsheet. (n.d.). Retrieved January 27, 2017, from http://www.europe-aliens.org/speciesFactsheet.do?speciesId=17367

Greenwood, P., & Kuhn, N. (2014). Does the invasive plant, Impatiens glandulifera, promote soil erosion along the riparian zone? An investigation on a small watercourse in northwest Switzerland. Journal Of Soils & Sediments: Protection, Risk Assessment, & Remediation, 14(3), 637-650. doi:10.1007/s11368-013-0825-9

Hubert, K. Personal contact. 20/01/2017

Landry, M. K. (2006). Impatiens glandulifera. Retrieved from http://calphotos.berkeley.edu/cgi/img_query?enlarge=0000+0000+0506+2166

Molles C. M., & Cahill, F. J. (2014).  Ecology: Concepts and Applications. Canada: Transcontinental Printer.

Tanner, R., Jin, L., Shaw, R., Murphy, S., & Gange, A. (2014). An ecological comparison of Impatiens glandulifera Royle in the native and introduced range. Plant Ecology, 215(8), 833-843. doi:10.1007/s11258-014-0335-x


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