Garlic Mustard

An Alien Invader!


Garlic Mustard Plant Identification
What is this Alien Invader?

Garlic mustard (Alliaria petiolata) is a cool season biennial herb (it takes two years to flower) with stalked, triangular to heart-shaped, coarsely toothed leaves that give off an odor of garlic when crushed. The first-year plants appear as a rosette of green leaves close to the ground. These rosettes remain green through the winter and develop into mature flowering plants the following spring. Flowering plants of garlic mustard reach from 2 to 3½ feet in height and produce button like clusters of small white flowers, each with four petals in the shape of a cross.

When do you see Garlic Mustard?

You can see it anytime, but it is easiest to spot in the spring. It starts growing taller between the taller more noticeable stalks start growing between February and stalks start to die off in June.

Where can you Find Garlic Mustard?

Garlic Mustard can overtake a forest!
Garlic mustard is everywhere! It prefers moist habitat, but has proven to be a very successful plant. They can even be found in your own backyard, parks, and forests!

How did it get here?

It was most likely brought over from its native Europe by settlers for food and medicinal purposes. The earliest known sighting of garlic mustard in North America is in 1868 in Long Island.

Why is it so bad to have?

Many problems have arisen since Garlic Mustard first arrived in American forests. A single plant can release anywhere from 600 - 2,000 seeds every year. It is estimated to be spreading at a rate of 6,400 square kilometers per year!

Garlic Mustard doesn’t play fair!

Garlic Mustard is not native to New York State
Garlic mustard is alleopathic. Allelopathic means it produces a chemical that kills all other competing plants, including trees! The extent of how it is affecting our native trees is still unknown, but garlic mustard has choked out many native woodland favorites such as spring beauty, wild ginger, blood root, Dutchmen’s breeches, trillium and toothworts.

It changes the playing field!

West Virginia white butterfly(Pieris virginiensis)
With the release of the chemicals into the soil it can affect the the contents of leaf litter in the forest. This in turn affects species of salamanders, mollusks (snails), and some insects. 
It also affects the soil fungus (Fungi mycoorhizal).  

With the toothworts on the decline because the Garlic Mustard, there are three butterfly species: West Virginia white butterfly (Pieris virginiensis), mustard white butterfly (Pieris oleracea), and falcate orange tip (Anthocharis media annicke) that have been forced to lay their eggs on Garlic Mustard. Because of this it is believed that the chemicals in the plants kill the butterfly larvae causing their numbers drastically decline.


How do we control Garlic Mustard?

Cub Scout Pack 592 Cleaning up Reinstein Woods of Garlic Mustard
At Pack 592 we very proud of our multi-year effort to hand pick Garlic Mustard in Reinstein Woods. In 2015 we picked 109.5 pounds of garlic mustard for a total of over 400 pounds picked in the last four years
! Over the past couple years we have not only had fun picking it, we have seen some the beautiful native plants come back which is a reward!