Alliaria petiolata (Garlic Mustard)

Plant Info
Also known as:
Genus:Alliaria
Family:Brassicaceae (Mustard)
Life cycle:biennial
Origin:Europe
Status:
  • Invasive - ERADICATE!
  • Noxious Weed
  • Prohibited or Restricted species
Habitat:part shade, shade; woods, edges of woods, along roads
Bloom season:May - June
Plant height:1 to 4 feet
Wetland Indicator Status:GP: FACU MW: FAC NCNE: FACU
MN county distribution (click map to enlarge):Minnesota county distribution map
National distribution (click map to enlarge):National distribution map

Pick an image for a larger view. See the glossary for icon descriptions.

Detailed Information

Flower: Flower shape: 4-petals Cluster type: round

[photo of flowers] Flowers are in a rounded cluster 1 to 3 inches across, at the top of the plant. Individual flowers are about 1/3 inch across, 4 rounded white petals and short green stamens with greenish yellow tips. The cluster elongates as the plant matures.

Leaves and stem: Leaf attachment: alternate Leaf type: simple

[photo of leaves] Leaves in second year plants are up to 3 inches long and wide, generally kidney to heart shaped with large rounded irregular teeth and leaf stalks that become shorter as leaves ascend the stem. Leaves at the top of the plant are smaller and typically more triangular. The leaves smell like garlic when crushed. First year plants have just a rosette of smaller round or kidney shaped leaves with scalloped edges. Leaves may be hairless or hairy to varying degrees; stems are likewise hairy to varying degrees.

Fruit: Fruit type: capsule/pod

[photo of seed pods] Fruit is a thin pod to 2 inches long, containing a single row of numerous black seeds. The pods usually curve up, but may be more horizontal.

Notes:

Garlic Mustard is a highly aggressive invasive species. One plant produces hundreds of seeds and can infest an area within just a few years. I've seen plants as short as 2 inches tall flower and bear fruit. It forms large colonies, crowding out native species and destroying habitat and food source for wildlife. It prefers the dappled sunlight of wooded areas, but may grow in sunnier locations. First year seedlings might be mistaken for violets or Creeping Charlie. Of note is that this species is far more widespread than the county distribution map indicates. For example, it is all over Ramsey County, but only a few herbarium records have been collected in the SW corner of the county. It is likely found throughout the SE part of the state, but few records have been collected so far.

In spring 2008 I discovered the first Garlic Mustard growing at Long Lake Regional Park and took on the job of trying to eradicate it before it became a blight. After 3 years of hand pulling, it was just about gone. :-) The bad news is, there is a big infestation across the railroad tracks on the north side of the park so it is only a matter of time before there is another invasion, one too big for one person to handle. Heavy sigh.

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More photos

Photos taken at Coon Rapids Dam Regional Park, Coon Rapids, MN May 2007 and 2008

Comments

Have you seen this plant in Minnesota, or have any other comments about it?

Posted by: Linda
on: 2008-06-02 11:33:23

I noted that you are trying to eradicate garlic mustard (a very nice edible plant) from your park.

Isn't there some way you can allow people (who eat wild foods, such as myself) to "eradicate" it for you from the park?

There are many wild edible plants that can be used by hungry people (such as myself) and which can be "eradicated" for you for free.

Posted by: K Chayka
on: 2008-06-02 14:07:46

Hello Linda,
Thank you very much for your message. It never occurred to me that garlic mustard might be beneficial in any way. I certainly have no objection to people harvesting it for food, and am glad of any assistance in ridding local parks of the stuff.

I just want to mention, though, that I am not working on my own to control this invasive species in my favorite park, but in cooperation with Ramsey County Parks and Recreation. I volunteered to stop the spread at Long Lake Park while it is still possible to control it, and am doing it with their permission. However, there are many other parks in Ramsey County that have widespread populations of the stuff. There is plenty of garlic mustard to go around, and no doubt will be for many years.

Harvesting garlic mustard as food does have to be done correctly to prevent spreading it any more than it already does. Let me know how I can help. And thanks again for writing

Posted by: randy b.
on: 2008-06-18 22:16:07

This plant is horrible. You can't possibly eat it all. It is taking over Crosby Park in St. Paul. In the last two years it has increased rapidly.

I am seeing it all over so I don't know how we can get rid of it all. I pulled three big garbage bags from the hill behind my home this spring and there was still more. I caught it while it was flowering but I know it will be back again next year.

Posted by: Meredith - Shoreview
on: 2010-05-06 16:22:38

I found this down by the marsh also known as Lake Martha, that is behind my house. Now that I know what it is im going to dig out what I can since its still in a pretty contained area. Hopefully it hasn't dropped many seeds yet.

Posted by: K. Chayka
on: 2010-05-06 17:27:26

It should be fairly easy to uproot without digging. The taproot isn't that long, unless it is a really large plant. It's been suggested that you might actually compost this stuff green in a plastic bag. Any seed that's already forming should just rot, as long as you keep it bagged long enough. Don't put it in the regular compost because that might not generate enough heat to kill the seed.

What I've been doing is pulling off any flowering parts, uprooting the flowering plants and just leaving the carcass on site, often draped over nearby buckthorn (it's good for something, anyway!). I've only bagged up any seed that was already forming and throwing that little bit in the trash. This has worked pretty well so far.

If you do leave uprooted plants on site, be sure to pull off any buds or flowers because it could still use stored up energy in the rest of the plant to create seed.

Posted by: rickdog - Minnetonka
on: 2010-05-06 19:48:53

I just mowed down a thousand plants on my property. For recipes and cooking instructions: http://www.patapscoheritagegreenway.org/garlic07/index.html

Posted by: Esther - St Anthony Park (St Paul)
on: 2010-05-20 21:58:27

A single plant (so far) under my apple tree.

Posted by: Davydd - Tonka Bay, Hennepin County
on: 2011-07-13 16:47:01

I've been hand pulling garlic mustard on my 1-1/2 wooded acre lot and am just now getting ahead of it. Unfortunately, it is also on adjacent properties so will come back again and again. With a rainy spring and soft wet ground it has been very easy to pull.

I noticed a billboard on I-494 in Minnetonka that had a public service message to pull garlic mustard by June 28. Granted, it is easier to spot and pull in the spring when it is flowering but hopefully anytime before the seeds disperse is good.

We leave our property totally natural as a wooded setting with forest and wildflower clearings, and we back up to a wetland that is partially private and city owned.

Posted by: jessica - Brainerd
on: 2013-03-04 17:50:50

Last spring I discovered a patch of garlic mustard in a small, wooded area in the middle of Brainerd and was thrilled since I was looking in a foraging sense (it cooked up wonderfully with the ostrich ferns I found nearby). I didn't realize how terribly invasive it is until later in the summer, so this coming year I will be quite a bit more aggressive in how I harvest it!

Posted by: Mark - Oakdale Nature Preserve
on: 2013-05-29 12:26:21

I discovered a couple small and one large patch two years ago in the ONP. Even where I know I pulled every plant last year before any fresh seed was laid down, a new carpet of them grows this spring. How long does the seed stay in the ground? I've been working with Oakdale Parks, BTW.

Posted by: K. Chayka
on: 2013-05-29 12:49:28

Mark, as I understand it, the seed bank lasts for at least 8 years. I've been pulling it at Long Lake park in Ramsey County since 2008, when I first spotted 3 small areas of infestation. In 1 location I haven't seen any seedlings in 2 years but it is still present in the other 2. It seems a bit more abundant this year than last, but has diminished from how I originally found it. Sometimes I do feel like it's a losing battle but then I think about what it would be like without this persistence. Keep the faith :)

Posted by: John - Edina
on: 2014-05-07 19:04:00

I live near Normandale Park in Edina and there is a rather large and growing patch in the park behind my house. It has been rapidly spreading where the Buckthorn was removed. There are hundreds and maybe thousands of plants. It is even starting to invade my yard in the garden areas. I first noticed it a couple of years ago, but I only recently realized what it is and will try to pull as much as possible this spring before it flowers.

Posted by: Brett - Red Wing
on: 2014-05-17 17:25:18

Saw a couple of these in Praire Creek SNA today. Not a lot, and in just one area...

Posted by: Timothy - Brooklyn Park
on: 2015-05-19 22:29:37

I saw the first garlic mustard in my yard 3 years ago and have been pulling it in the spring ever since but it is spreading every year. Birds must transfer the seed. It's a losing battle to control this plant except in small yards with dedicated annual pulling. Public and private woodlands in my city are infested beyond hope of control with both garlic mustard and buckthorn. I fear many native Minnesota plants and the animals that depend on them are headed the way of the Dodo bird. So sad!

Posted by: Patti - Stewartville
on: 2015-05-23 21:15:08

Is there an organized effort I can join to help with eradicating this in Olmsted County?

Posted by: Lee - Rochester
on: 2015-07-15 18:25:54

Patti, Prairie Smoke, a former chapter of Prairie Enthusiasts, may be the group you want to contact. An address for them is http://www.prairiesmokemn.org/ Good luck!

Posted by: Chuck - Minneapolis
on: 2016-02-20 14:01:48

I was wondering if there is any groups in Hennepin or Ramsey county that eradicate invasive species, that i could join / take part in, it would be a good way to learn what type of plants are invasive.

Posted by: K. Chayka
on: 2016-02-20 18:16:40

Chuck, you could might the county Parks and Rec department for further information.

Posted by: Denny - Robbinsdale
on: 2016-04-22 19:47:43

Chuck, the National Park Service has a crews of volunteers that meet every Tuesday evening and Thursday morning at Coldwater Spring. They focus on whatever plant is coming up. In April and May it is mostly garlic mustard and motherwort. They will teach you plant ID and removal techniques. To find out more, go to http://parkconnection.org/support/volunteer/ You will learn invasives so well, you'll see them everywhere.

Posted by: Norma - Lake Elmo
on: 2016-04-27 00:22:59

I first noticed this weed in my yard 4 years ago and hired a neighbor boy to pull it. Unfortunately the following year it started spreading to the rest of my one acre wooded lot. Every year I pull what I can by hand but last year there was so much that I resorted to using Roundup which worked like a charm. This year the second year plants are growing all over. I filled 3 large garbage bags in 1.5 hours and still have more to pull. Fortunately I have someone coming by to help me. The weed has not returned in the area where I used Roundup last year. Not sure if that's a temporary thing. I don't like using the stuff but felt quite overwhelmed by this weed. My neighbors don't understand the importance of pulling it - just let your woods grow naturally they say. In addition to what I have on my property, its coming down the hill from two neighbors properties so I'll probably be dealing with it for many years. At least I have the buckthorn under control ...

Posted by: K. Chayka
on: 2016-04-27 05:51:19

Norma, Round-up will have limited effect on garlic mustard because it's designed to kill perennials, where garlic mustard is biennial. You'd probably get the same effect using dandelion spray, and avoid killing off whatever native perennials might still be in the area. Your biggest problem is really the seed bank, which Round-up doesn't touch. Pulling up new garlic mustard rosettes and preventing flowering plants from producing seed is your best defense.

Posted by: Evan - Swede Hollow Park, Saint Paul
on: 2016-04-29 09:16:19

I spent some time this weekend in Swede Hollow park, which is absolutely infested with garlic mustard. On the day of my visit (May 24th 2016), Many of the garlic mustard had already started blooming, so it looks like the seed bank is going to be replenished before this population can be eradicated.

Posted by: Sandra - Racine, WI
on: 2016-05-07 19:22:21

I was researching this plant because I found two patches in my yard and couldn't identify it as a Wisconsin plant. If this is an evasive species, I will probably do my best to dig it up. Any other suggestions? Thank you!

Posted by: Irene - Brainerd (just 2 miles south of)
on: 2016-05-20 19:54:17

I have a single plant of this in one of my small flower gardens. Loved the leaves, but now after reading everything written here, I will be removing it. Just last year had a 9ft tall giant ragweed plant in the same small garden but on the opposite side. Thankfully didn't come back this year, as I was allergic to it. I was looking at the map though and noticed crow wing county isn't on there for the distribution of this garlic mustard plant. I'm staring at it in front of me...

Posted by: Jerry - Fridley, Anoka County, Rice Creek West Regional Trail
on: 2016-06-22 13:39:00

I live just "downstream" from Long Lake along Rice Creek, and was heartened to see I'm not the only one "out there" fighting invasives every week. I've been fighting a battle with Both Garlic Mustard and Buckthorn, but being just one person, I've just been able to slowly eradicate both from an area of about 2 acres... a tiny refugium, but one where native flowers are returning! I teach geography (largely environmental science) at MCTC (Minneapolis Community and Technical College) downtown, however, and am hoping to partner with Anoka County Parks and others to widen the scale of restoration. Every semester I have a small army of between 100 and 150 students, most of whom care deeply about making a difference. For now, our field trips have just included the identification of invasive species, but I also make a point to EAT garlic mustard and let the students try it as well. Some gather more to take home for salads! Advice? Contacts?

Posted by: K. Chayka
on: 2016-06-23 05:33:03

Jerry, try contacting the Natural Resources Manager at the applicable County Parks & Rec. Dept. They'll probably love having help with invasive species removal.

Posted by: Bill - Andover
on: 2016-06-24 18:11:37

There is quite a bit of garlic mustard on one of my neighbor's property, and I'm concerned that it will take over his beautiful woods. Regarding the seed bank, does anyone know if crabgrass preventer would kill them as they germinate? If it worked, it might be a good tool.

Posted by: Joe - Brown County (New Ulm) and Fillmore County (Lanesboro)
on: 2016-07-15 21:35:53

Flandrau State Park badly infested with garlic mustard. Spreading along trails by mowing. Spreading into City of New Ulm by deer. Spreading downstream along the banks of the Cottonwood River. I'm on my second year of trying to control some of it by a variety of methods. Its really devastating spring wildflower populations. It is quickly expanding its range. In my opinion this is the #1 worse terrestrial invasive plant in Minnesota and not enough is being done to control it. One plant allowed to mature produces 300-3000 seeds! The key is not to allow small populations to produce seeds.

Posted by: Tahsha - Eden Prairie
on: 2016-08-12 22:58:41

Edenbrook Conservation Area has a serious garlic mustard invasion. There should be events/gatherings just to pull the stuff.

Posted by: Ellen S. - Edina
on: 2016-10-18 21:56:34

City of Edina allowed this and many other invasives to utterly destroy Pamela Park. There are now almost no native plants left. How do I get permission to uproot invasive plants on City property?

Posted by: K. Chayka
on: 2016-10-19 05:27:42

Ellen, contact the city Parks and Rec department. Chances are they don't have the resources to manage it all themselves and would love to have volunteers help with invasive species.

Posted by: Lisa - Coon Rapids, Anoka County
on: 2017-04-26 15:48:07

Bison Creek Park in Coon Rapids is completely overrun with garlic mustard, so much so that it actually smells like garlic as you stroll through the park.

Posted by: Chris - Decoriah twp, Blue Earth county
on: 2017-05-04 14:37:15

Unfortunately this is in blue earth county.

Posted by: Laurie O - Blaine Open Space
on: 2017-05-07 06:17:24

So much work being done here to restore the area to it's natural habitat. But I think I spotted this bad boy enjoying it's freedom to grow!

Posted by: Angie - Eden Prairie
on: 2017-06-06 17:05:46

This is everywhere in EP and I've actually seen it take over the local parks and paths since I moved in five years ago. I diligently clear seedlings from my property every spring but I'm backed up against a city park and it just floods in from every side....along with thistles and nettles and buckthorn. My neighbors do nothing. I don't think many of them even know what's going on back there.

Posted by: Leah B - West Medicine Lake Park, Plymouth
on: 2017-06-27 20:49:12

This plant is very prolific in the wilder part of the park, across the road from the lake.

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