Wildlife Wednesday 05/15/2024

For today’s #WildlifeWednesday we discuss an invasive plant that is widespread throughout Ohio: garlic mustard.

Introduced to North America from Europe in the mid-1800s for its herbal and medicinal characteristics, garlic mustard is now present in nearly every county in the state. It spreads easily in pastures, lawns, floodplains, along roadsides, and in woods and forests. 

Garlic mustard is considered a major pest due to its threat to the biodiversity of ecosystems. It emerges much earlier in the spring than the native wildflowers, outcompeting the plants that are supposed to be there for sunshine, nutrients, moisture, and space. It can take over the understory of the forest, weakening the habitat as a whole. Chemicals in garlic mustard have also been found to be toxic to the larvae of some native butterfly species.

To control garlic mustard, manually pulling it before it goes to seed is effective. It is important to pull the whole plant, including the root system. If the plant is pulled before flowering it can be left to decompose. Otherwise, the entire plant should be bagged and removed from the site.

On the plus side, garlic mustard is edible for humans and carries flavors of both garlic and mustard. In modern cuisine the leaves are chopped up and used in sauces and salads. All parts of the plant are edible and the stems can add a pop of flavor to pasta and rice dishes, or be eaten on their own.

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