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Garlic Mustard (Alliaria petiolata)

Posted on Jul 8, 2014

We thought we would kick off New York State’s Invasive Species Awareness Week by talking about a familiar invasive species: Garlic Mustard (Alliaria petiolata). Garlic mustard is a member of the Mustard family (Brassicaceae) and can be easily identified by its white flowers and garlicky scent. This invader is taking over disturbed soils along roadsides and is making its way into nearby forests, choking out native understory plants. Once established, garlic mustard will emit chemicals into the soil, preventing native herbaceous plants and tree seedlings from growing. If left unchecked, garlic mustard will blanket the forest floor and ultimately change the plant and possibly tree composition.

Garlic Mustard

Garlic Mustard

While garlic mustard may not directly impact us, other than changing the aesthetics of our favorite forested hiking spots, it does a lot more than simply lowering the diversity of plant life. Garlic mustard changes the soil chemistry in which it grows and negatively impacts the leaf litter on the forest floor. This can spell bad news for salamander populations, insect diversity and mollusks such as snails or slugs, all of which are sensitive to changes in pH and concentrations of various chemical compounds.

On the bright side, garlic mustard can be easily managed through a bit of manual labor. Pulling of individual plants before they release their seeds is essential and should be continued for up to five years to eliminate the plant’s seed bank. Furthermore, preventing soils from being disturbed is a simple but effective way of preventing the spread of this invader into a forested area. With that said, let’s do our part and be good stewards of our natural areas so that they don’t become blanketed with stinky garlic mustard!

Elyse Henshaw
Conservation Technician