Garlic mustard Invasive garlic mustard © TNC

Stories in Indiana

Garlic Mustard

Garlic mustard is considered one of the most destructive invasive plants in our state.

Oh, garlic mustard, why must you be so troublesome? This invasive plant can be found all across Indiana and requires a little patience to get rid of, like most invasive species.

Garlic mustard (Alliaria petiolata) is also known as Poor Man’s Mustard, Hedge Garlic, Garlic Root and Jack-by-the-Hedge. It is called garlic mustard because the leaves have a garlic smell when they are crushed.

Why is garlic mustard bad?

Its numerous seeds are dispersed by wind and water. It invades fields and woodlands, displacing native vegetation. Garlic mustard can change soil conditions to inhibit the growth of most other plants.

According to the Indiana Native Plant Society, garlic mustard is considered one of the ten most destructive invasive species in Indiana today. Fortunately for us, we have options to rid ourselves of this pest of a plant.

Why is garlic mustard an invasive species?

An invasive species can be any kind of living organism—a plant, insect, fish, fungus or bacteria—that is not native to an ecosystem and causes harm. They can harm the environment, the economy or even human health. Species that grow and reproduce quickly, and spread aggressively, with potential to cause harm, are given the label “invasive.”

That is garlic mustard.

How do you kill garlic mustard?

Eradicating garlic mustard is easy work, but takes time. Vigilance is key, as garlic mustard can sprout up even when you're sure that you've gotten rid of every last one.

The best way to get rid of garlic mustard is manually; i.e. pulling it up and discarding it. Try to pull up the plants before they set seed, because the action of yanking the plant from the ground will spread the seed.

A good time to pull garlic mustard is after it rains. The wet soil makes it easier to pull up the plants, and you're more likely to get all or most of the long tap root. Like dandelions, if you don’t get that tap root, the plant will grow back.

After you have pulled the plants, resist the temptation to throw them in your composter. Bag them up and throw them out with your garbage. They will be deeply buried in the landfill.

The ultimate goal in removing garlic mustard is to prevent seed development and spreading until the existing seed bank is depleted. Unluckily for us, this may take 2- 5 years in any confined area. Cutting the flowering stems at ground level and pulling plants before they set seed is one method that can be done in smaller areas, but may be too labor intensive for large patches.

The task may seem daunting, but if you watch carefully, you will see that native plants and even tree seedlings steadily re-populate the areas where you have removed the garlic mustard. You are helping the area become healthier!

What is The Nature Conservancy doing?

The Nature Conservancy will occasionally have garlic mustard pulls at the nature preserves, such as Fall Creek Gorge in Warren County, that need it. Check our event listings for upcoming opportunities.

For More Information

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