by Karen Weiland, Advanced Master Gardener
A friend and I were recently talking about weeds and the subject of garlic mustard and how invasive it can be, came up. I have to admit that I have heard the term and knew that there were organized garlic mustard pulls, but I did not take the time to research what it looked like. So after our conversation about it I did my research. Holy cow, I came to find that the pretty bunch of white flowers growing near my old smoke house was actually the dreaded garlic mustard. After taking some photos of it, out of the ground it came.
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 several thousand 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.
Non-native invasive species are organisims 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 also releases chemicals into the soil that inhibits the growth of other plant species. With garlic mustards’ chemical release, prolific seed producing capabilities and the fact that it shades out the native plants, it has the opportunity to create changes in the natural environment that favors its’ growth and spread.
During a mother/daughter, mushroom hunting outing recently, we worked in some garlic mustard pulling. Now that I know what it looks like, I am amazed at how much of it is out there. Spring is a real good time give this unwanted invader a pull. Do it before the ground starts to dry out and most importantly, before it sets seed. Identification is easiest when it is in bloom. Try to get enough of the root, by pulling on the stalk near the soil, so that the plant doesn’t have the capability to form a new flower stalk. Depending on the maturity of the plant, pulled plants can still set seed, so it is important to bag and dispose of them. Mowing is not an effective control because plants will still bolt and set seed. It’s a good idea to revisit pulled sites to remove any plants that have sprouted from left behind roots.
Go get ‘em!
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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