Monoculture of Invasive Garlic Mustard

June 22, 2017 Posted by: K.A. Holbrook
Garlic Mustard is an alien invasive species that was brought from Europe to North America by settlers in the 1860s.  Garlic Mustard was used for herbal and medical use and also to flavor food.  The first record of it in the United States is in Long Island, New York, in 1868 (“Invasive Plants of Ohio”, a Collection of Fact Sheets by The Nature Conservancy). Garlic Mustard, green leafy plant with white flowers.Nearly two and a half centuries later, garlic mustard is now a bully on the block, outcompeting native plants in our woods. Garlic mustard in a sense is causing a type of identity theft, becoming a monoculture that eliminates native plant species.
On South Bass Island, many local plants are losing ground:  Wild Leeks or Ramps, Wild Hyacinth, False Solomon’s Seal, May Apples, Common Blue Violet, Large-flowered Trillium, and Jack in the Pulpit are just a few of my favorites that are disappearing.  Their habitat is being taken over by the invasive garlic mustard.  Why is the habitat being taken over?  Garlic mustard is an aggressive, towering plant that outcompetes seedlings below it. Each plants produces millions of seeds and eradicating garlic mustard is a challenge.
Garlic mustard can be treated chemically, but the best method for removal is to pull it in early spring and summer before the white blossoms turn to seed pods.  The trick is to pull the plant, root and all, before the seed pods are ready to pop. The key is to grab the stem close to the root and gently tug.
Once the plants are pulled they should be bagged and sent to the landfill.  According to the Stewardship Network’s Garlic Mustard Challenge 2017 web site, composting is a no-go, because you could spread the seed with your compost.  Not good!  Even burning the plants will not kill the small but mighty seeds. Check out for more pulling details.

Victoria Roggenbeck, Samantha Newhouse, Karen Wilhelm, Alyssa Kudray, Kathie Holbrook, Lisa Brohl, and Ed and Rikki Herdendorf recently pulled 14 large bags of garlic mustard.
I recently gathered with volunteers at the Jane Coates Wildflower Trail on South Bass Island, near the Village of Put- in-Bay. Conditions were perfect to pull after a rain had loosened the soil.  If you ever pull garlic mustard, wear long pants. Long sleeves and gloves.  Insect repellant, sunscreen, hats and water are also recommended.
First year plants are a small rosette of edible leaves. You can actually crush or cut the first year leaves and make a nice chip dip or pesto.  Use your favorite dip recipe but add a tablespoon of diced freshly washed leaves harvested early in the spring.  The leaves become bitter as the season progresses.
Early spring rosettes can be harvested for a tasty recipe.  Be sure to harvest wild plants where no chemicals have been sprayed.  Many recipes are available on line.  A favorite of mine is:
Garlic Mustard Pesto Recipe
Chop:  3 Tbsp. garlic mustard roots and 4 garlic cloves
Add:    1 cup chopped wild garlic mustard leaves
¾ cup fresh chopped parsley
1 cup chopped fresh basil leaves
2 cups of chopped walnuts
1/2 cup chopped black olives
½ cup olive oil
½ cup yellow miso
National Park Rangers Kathie Holbrook and Alyssa Kudray tackle the invasive plants.

Great Lakes Restoration Initiative, GLRI, CONSERVATION, Garlic Mustard, Ranger Kathie, invasive species, removal

1 Comments Comments icon

  1. Paragis
    March 11, 2018 at 04:53

    Thank you for this insightful update! I wish to express my personal gratitude to the American People for helping millions to live better lives. i have a short suggestion: Millions of people in sub-Saharan Africa use herbal medicines for various health challenges, first of all because they are more readily accessible and cost less, and secondly because many believe that they work. Using herbs is also more compatible with the traditional African worldview which fundamentally attributes disease causation to superatural forces, and therefore it seems logical to many that these forces can be overcomed by natural as opposed to ‘articifically engineered’ remedies. Apart from the fact that many people living with HIV and AIDS in Africa face severe financial challenges and that has implications for their ability to buy ARVs (however subsidized they may be), their health belief systems are embedded in traditional religious worldviews and it is time for the world to explore ways in which existing herbal approaches can contribute to alleviating the medical challenges associated with HIV and AIDS. So far, we have not invested much in this area, however it will be useful to consider it as soon as possible. Paragis

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Last updated: June 22, 2017

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