An Easy Way to Stop the Spread of Garlic Mustard


Garlic mustard, or Alliaria petiolata, is a plant between twelve and thirty-six inches high with round green leaves and small white flowers. It is considered an herb and is possibly one of the oldest discovered spices to be used in ancient European cooking. The plant was also used in curing and disinfecting injuries. Even today, garlic mustard is sometimes used as a seasoning in salads and sauces. It acts as a substitute for both garlic and mustard, but has a milder taste.

Garlic mustard was brought to North America in the 1860’s with the intention of employing it in cooking. Recently, the plant was listed as noxious or restricted in states across the United States including Connecticut, Oregon, Alabama, West Virginia, Vermont, and Washington. Garlic mustard is a growing problem in many other states as well as Canada. Like most invasive species introduced to a non-native area, garlic mustard lacks natural predators in its new home. It is crowding out the native plants in North America’s forests, killing off the food sources of native animals and disrupting the habitat. Speeding the spread of this invasive plant are the animals themselves. For example, deer will not eat garlic mustard, and instead eat their natural food source. Since there are fewer native plants, they disappear more quickly as they are consumed, and the garlic mustard takes their place.

There are several ways to help contain and stop the spread of garlic mustard. For areas of high infestation, a chemical is sprayed on the plant when it is dormant in order to kill it before it has a chance to flower. Burning can also be effective over large areas, but also carries a risk for damage to local plants and animals. Both of these methods can be expensive and potentially harmful to other plant species. A surefire way to cut down on the spread of mustard garlic is to gather up a group of friends and family and pull the plant by hand. It is often a time consuming and tedious process, but the results are immediate and satisfying.

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