Garlic mustard natural enemy

If you are enjoying a walk in the woods, along the riverbank, even RiverTrail during the next few weeks, you will see garlic mustard, an arch enemy of biological diversity and healthy ecosystems.

Plants may have several small white flowers on the top of a two-inch stem or may be three feet tall with multiple stems and many small white flowers. The very small white 4-petaled flowers present the problem because if each is pollinated, each will produce a number of small black seeds that will mean another, much larger generation in the succeeding year.

Garlic mustard is a biennial but its rosette of leaves have staked out territory on the ground physically as well as chemically and not many species can compete.

The last week of April and the first couple of weeks of May are peak flowering time and then we might almost forget about it until the onslaught next year.

If you want to do a good deed for Mother Earth, consider pulling garlic mustard that you encounter on your walks about town or the county. Of course, if you are on private property you should ask permission but if you feel the urge for a good Pull for the Earth, take a plastic bag on your walks. If this foe of healthy riverbanks is growing on public land, by all means pull it.

Garlic mustard may be growing in large or small clusters or singly if someone has been pulling earlier in the season. Look for the yellowish-green crinkled leaves, about the size of a violet leaf but especially look for the small white flowers near the top of the stem. If a leaf is rubbed there is a garlic odor.

This species is notorious for being able to develop viable seed even if the plant is hung up off the ground and so the recommendation for years has been to bag the pulled plants and carry them out. However, recent studies have shown that if each cluster of flowers is separated from the stem before pulling the rest of the plant including the root, there is insufficient resource for the plant to set viable seed. This alternative method eliminates the need for bagging.

Marilyn Ortt of 701 Colegate Drive, Marietta, is a member of the Marietta City Tree Commission. Our Earth appears on alternate weeks in the weekend edition.