Springtime means lovely woodland wildflowers blooming, spring peepers piping up, migrant songbirds returning, new leaves and flowers popping out on our deciduous trees, and more. Less welcome, but making an appearance all the same, are the invasive exotics, some of which seriously threaten our native plants. One such invader, garlic mustard, is much in evidence these days. This plant has overrun and out-competed forest wildflowers in some parts of the Northeast and has gotten a foothold on the Domain.
A biennial invasive exotic, garlic mustard can be found along roadsides and in moist ravines. Right now, each plant appears as a clump of shiny green leaves that have a distinct garlicky odor when crushed. It will “bolt” soon, producing triangular leaves along stems that are topped with white 4-petaled flowers. Fertilized flowers develop long slender fruits (siliques) typical of the mustard family. An individual plant can produce thousands of seeds.
There are two bits of good news: before the plant bolts, the leaves are edible. Check out this Michigan webpage for recipes and other information including a mention of the Garlic Mustard Pickers musical group.
Also, this is one invasive plant that can truly be controlled by assiduous pulling. If left uncontrolled, however, it can decimate native populations of woodland herbaceous species. The seeds can remain viable in the soil for five years or more, so effective management requires a long term commitment. The best strategy is to pull the plants up gently, bag them, and dispose of them in a landfill. Take care to get as much of the root system as possible, because new plants can sprout from root fragments. See this site for more information.
Sewanee’s annual Garlic Mustard Pull will be held April 28. Meet at Morgan’s Steep at 1:30 PM, and help us fight back against this unwelcome invader.