Garlic Mustard

Garlic Mustard (Alliaria petiolata) [ USDA, Wikipedia, GoBotany, IPANE ]

Alliaria petiolata small plant

Garlic Mustard shoots up in thickets up to 3ft. in height from basal rosettes in a two-year cycle in both grasslands and woods. The leaves on the rosettes and the lower parts of mature plants are kidney shaped, while the stem leaves are alternate and deltoid, decreasing in size as they go up the stem. The leaves give off the odor of garlic when crushed, and have wide tooths on their edges. It has white flowers, appearing in April/May, with fruits produced by May.

Garlic Mustard (Alliaria petiolata)

Due to its ability to thrive in low-light, it crowds out the native spring ephemerals that are otherwise a lovely and diverse part of the wild understory. It even damages the fungal communities that trees depend on; and it threatens some butterfly populations that are looking to lay eggs on native mustard plants and find the non-sustaining garlic mustard plants instead. We humans introduced it to this area as a salad plant late in the 19th century, but it has escaped our gardens since then, and is growing wild and thick.

The good news is that it is easy to identify, and it can be hand-picked to extirpation in five years of Spring (and sometimes Fall) picking sessions.

Garlic Mustard is found on all Acton conservation lands. Together, we can get it out of there. Volunteer!

Alliaria petiolata (2)


Removal requires repeated picking of the second (and later) year plants before they make seed. Their tall shoots and white flowers make them easy to identify. Grasp the plant around the base or the lower stem and gently start pulling --- you want to get all of the main root. If it breaks off, the plant will regrow.

Place the picked plants in opaque/dark trash bags and do not allow them to be composted. After picking a plant may still release seed.

Revisit the infestation every year in late April/early May and pick any newly matured second year plants. After four or five years, this should no longer be necessary!

Common Mis-Identifications


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