Garlic Mustard

by Karen Weiland, Advance Master Gardener

Garlic mustard is considered one of the most invasive, non-native plants in Indiana.  This plant is self fertile and very hard to get rid of once it has established itself.  Non-native, invasive species are organisms brought to an area that have become serious environmental pests.  One reason for their successful spread is that there is no natural control such as parasites, pathogens, predators or herbivores to control their growth.

Garlic mustard, (Allaria Petiolata) is a biennial herb that can grow in sun or shade.  In it’s first year of growth it forms a rosette of low growing, kidney shaped leaves, that when rubbed, smell like garlic.  In it’s second year, plants can grow three to four feet tall with triangular shaped, sharp toothed leaves and small, four petaled flowers in clusters at the top of each stem.  One plant can produce hundreds of seeds and these seeds can remain viable for seven years or more.  These plants are now found throughout Indiana and Michigan and pose a threat to native plants, such as spring wildflowers, by over-topping and shading them out.

Now that I know what it looks like, I am amazed at how much of it is out there.  The key to control is to prevent the plants from setting seed.   Spring is a real good time give this unwanted invader a pull.  Do it before the ground starts to dry out, after a rain is ideal.  Identification is easiest when it is in bloom.  Try to get the taproot, by pulling on the stalk near the soil, so that the plant doesn’t have the capability to form a new flower stalk.   Repeated cutting back of the second year stalks will prevent seed formation.  It’s a good idea to revisit pulled sites to remove any plants that have sprouted from left behind roots.

 

As always, Happy Gardening!

More information about gardening and related subjects is available online at www.hort.purdue.edu/ext/garden_pubs  The Purdue University Cooperative Extension Service can be reached at 499-6334 in LaGrange Co., 636-2111 in Noble Co., 925-2562 in DeKalb Co. and 668-1000 in Steuben Co.

 

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