When Garlic Mustard Attacks

Garlic mustard flowers

Garlic mustard is an herb—it's not woody—that grows over two years. The first year it's a low clump of green leaves. The second year it grows to 2 to 3.5 feet tall, with clusters of small white flowers. Each flower has four petals arranged in the shape of a cross.

Garlic mustard's leaves are triangular to heart-shaped, with toothed edges. When crushed, they smell like garlic. In spring, it produces thin, shiny black seed pods that stay through summer.

Warning: Many native plants with small white flowers grow with garlic mustard and can be mistaken for it. Be sure you know what you're looking for. You may need to consult a book or a local expert to make sure you know what plant you're dealing with. This video may also help you recognize it.

Garlic mustard is aggressive; it takes up water and other resources for itself, and can easily crowd out native wildflowers. With native plants gone, native insects lose their habitat—which means other animals lose their food.

If you have garlic mustard, you can take steps to destroy it and bring more native plants to your woods.

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