Garlic mustard sounds like something you might have on your spice rack in your kitchen at home. However, garlic mustard is actually an invasive species that is quickly taking over many upland and floodplain forests, streambanks, trails and roadsides.
Ironically, this European native plant was first introduced in the 1800s for medicinal and culinary purposes.
An invasive species is a plant, animal or insect that is non-native to the area and whose introduction causes or is likely to cause harm.
The emerald ash borer has all but destroyed our ash trees here in Ohio, the zebra mussel has caused havoc in Lake Erie, and the multiflora rose nearly decimated pastures and forest buffers long ago. These are invasive species that most people can easily identify with and understand how destructive invasive species can become.
The garlic mustard is another invasive species that has become prevalent throughout Delaware County and Ohio. According to the Ohio Department of Natural Resources’ Division of Natural Areas and Preserves website, it is a “biennial herb that grows as a rosette of leaves in the first year, which are kidney-shaped and garlic-smelling. … It grows multiple stems up to 4 feet tall with small, four-petaled flowers that are white and grow in clusters at the top of the stem.”
This species is very fast growing and is considered an invasive species because it overpowers and crowds out native species in the area. Its habitat is generally woodland areas, as it prefers some shade; however, it can occasionally be found in full sun. As with most invasive species, early detection and removal is best. Because the seed production of the garlic mustard is so prolific, removal or spraying with herbicides is best if done before or at time of flowering.
Anytime you are considering planting new vegetation, it is good to first research the species of plants before purchase or planting. Many times species are promoted in other states for planting and may not be listed in that state on their invasive species list. Also, there have been times in the past when some species were promoted for their benefits to reduce soil erosion, or as wildlife habitat, only to find out years later that they have become invasive.
To check Ohio’s invasive species list, go to www.ohiodnr.gov/dnap and click on “Invasive species.” There are also photos of garlic mustard and all invasive species on this site.
On a personal note, I would like to give a shout-out to my high school classmate and golf partner, Jeff Benton. Unlike garlic mustard, Jeff is not an invasive species; quite the contrary, he is a seventh-generation county resident and Delaware County’s newest commissioner. Congratulations and best wishes, my friend!
If you have questions or conservation needs, call the Delaware Soil and Water Conservation District at 740-368-1928 or go to our website at www.delawareswcd.org.
Brad Ross is communications specialist at the Delaware Soil and Water Conservation District. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.