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Friday, March 9, 2012

Plant Revealed...

First Year Leaf
So, if you haven't yet guessed, or did not already know the name of the plant mentioned yesterday it is:  Alliaria petolia: GARLIC MUSTARD.  This allelopathic (releases chemicals into the soil that inhibits the growth of other plants) non-native, invasive biennial plant should most definitely be a target of your current invasive removal work.  Can you tell I don't really like this plant?? Control methods are fairly simple as you will see below.  But before you can control a plant, you must be able to properly identify it, so here we go...

ID TIPS and pictures: 
Second Year Flower

: Stem leaves are alternate and triangular in shape, have large teeth, and can be 2 to 3 inches across in fruiting plants.
Leaves: First year plants consist of a cluster of 3 or 4 round, scallop edged leaves rising 2 to 4 inches in a rosette.
Flowers: Second-year plants generally produce one or two flowering stems with numerous white flowers that have four separate petals.
Odor: Leaves and stems of plant have strong, garlic odor when crushed

Fruit: Fruits are slender capsules 1 to 2.5 inches long that produce a single row oblong black seeds with ridged seed coats.

  Look Alikes
Asarum canadense
***A very similar early spring woodland native plant is Asarum canadense or wild ginger. This plant has low growing leaves that are smooth as opposed to scalloped and very prominently heart shaped.  They will never grow to the height of the second year garlic mustard plant, and they have a small brown flower which is pollinated by ants.

The most effective control method for garlic mustard is hand pulling.  It is very easy to pull and is a fun activity for a group of kids or a volunteer group.  You can be most effective when you pull out the first year leaves, though the second year plants tend to be easier to identify.  If you keep it from setting seed, year after year by pulling, you will eventually win the battle.  You must always use caution when hand pulling as you will create a certain amount of soil disturbance.

You can also spray garlic mustard in very late winter/early spring on a day that rises about 40 Degrees F with a glyphosate solution.  It is important to know your plant ID to make sure that you are not harming other native spring ephemerals when spraying the garlic mustard.  This is best to use in a very large infestation and before anything else has started to grow.   It is amazing to see the effect that the removal of this plant has on your landscape, and on the natives in the seed bank beginning to flourish. 

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