Orange balsam can be identified from its orange flowers, with reddish spots, and oval teethed leaves

Species profile

Orange balsam Impatiens capensis

We are all aware of Himalayan balsam Impatiens glandulifera, arguably one the UK’s most ‘successful’ invasive non-native species, famous for its hollow stem and popping seedpods- but its lesser known cousin, Orange balsam Impatiens capensis has hidden in its relative’s shadow rather unnoticed.

The species was first brought over from North America to Europe in the 19th century as an attractive ornamental plant, also coined orange jewelweed owing to its beautiful orange helmeted flowers. It quickly escaped the well-kept Victorian gardens of Surrey and has begun to slowly spread across the UK.

Its small shrub-like appearance has allowed it to blend in with native flora, and goes relatively undetected, only revealing itself in late August when its jewel-like flowers emerge. Like Himalayan balsam, it thrives on the edge of streams and canals and efficiently spreads its seeds down the watercourse.

Its shrub-like appearance allows it to blend in with native plants

Don’t be fooled, this alien species has only one thing on its mind, total plant domination! All jokes aside, orange balsam’s aggressive nature smothers native plants, putting pressure on the already fragile ecosystem in the UK. By displacing native and specialist plants, invasive plants have a cascading negative effect through the food chain, as well as contributing to other ecological pressures. Yet with relatively little known about orange balsam as an invasive species, the question is whether it has the potential to become a serious problem, like Himalayan balsam, and have a devastating impact on UK wildlife.

Orange balsam’s shallow roots allow it to be easily pulled from the ground

Get involved

To better understand and combat orange balsam, we need to record and map its distribution in the UK. If you have come across orange balsam or any other invasive non-native plants you can record these in a number of ways:

Take it a step further and get involved in a balsam bash. This is a great way to take action and make a difference. Get in touch with us at or check out our guidance to leading a balsam bash

Vanessa Barlow

Living Landscapes Assistant- River Derwent

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