Garlic Mustard

The name Garlic Mustard either makes a person cringe or intrigues them.  What is Garlic Mustard?  Garlic Mustard is a plant that was introduced to North America and Maryland by immigrants from Europe.  It is believed the plant was brought to the United States to be used as a herb, for seasoning in cooking and for use in medicinal purposes.

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(photos above and below are of Garlic Mustard plants, photos by Mike K., used with permission)

According to the United States National Park Service, “Garlic mustard is a cool season biennial herb with stalked, triangular to heart-shaped, coarsely toothed leaves that give off an odor of garlic when crushed. First-year plants appear as a rosette of green leaves close to the ground. Rosettes remain green through the winter and develop into mature flowering plants the following spring. Flowering plants of garlic mustard reach from 2 to 3-½ feet in height and produce buttonlike clusters of small white flowers, each with four petals in the shape of a cross.”photo-1

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The U.S. National Park service states that, “Garlic mustard poses a severe threat to native plants and animals in forest communities in much of the eastern and midwestern U.S. Many native widlflowers that complete their life cycles in the springtime (e.g., spring beauty, wild ginger, bloodroot, Dutchman’s breeches, hepatica, toothworts, and trilliums) occur in the same habitat as garlic mustard. Once introduced to an area, garlic mustard outcompetes native plants by aggressively monopolizing light, moisture, nutrients, soil and space. Wildlife species that depend on these early plants for their foliage, pollen, nectar, fruits, seeds and roots, are deprived of these essential food sources when garlic mustard replaces them. Humans are also deprived of the vibrant display of beautiful spring wildflowers.”

And that, “Garlic mustard also poses a threat to one of our rare native insects, the West Virginia white butterfly (Pieris virginiensis). Several species of spring wildflowers known as “toothworts” (Dentaria), also in the mustard family, are the primary food source for the caterpillar stage of this butterfly. Invasions of garlic mustard are causing local extirpations of the toothworts, and chemicals in garlic mustard appear to be toxic to the eggs of the butterfly, as evidenced by their failure to hatch when laid on garlic mustard plants.”

Fountain Rock Park & Nature Center has Garlic Mustard plants on the park grounds. Our “Weed Warrior” volunteer group meets on the first Monday of each month and, among other tasks, tries to eliminate the Garlic Mustard on the park grounds. If you would be interested in helping with this project, please contact the Park Naturalist at 301-898-1460.

Would you like to know more about Garlic Mustard or other invasive plants? Please stop by our Nature Center and ask one of our friendly staff or volunteers and they will be glad to answer your questions. The Nature Center is open on weekends. Saturday: 10am to 4pm and Sunday from 1pm to 4pm. The park grounds are open 7 days a week starting at 8:00 a.m.

(Most of the information in this blog posting was quoted from the website of the United States Park Service. The website is located at:
http://www.nps.gov/plants/alien/fact/alpe1.htm )

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