By Jeanne Nevard
This is Part 2 of the seventh in a series on invasive plants. The Pepperell Garden Club has designated this as "Invasives Awareness Year." Please clip and keep for your reference.
Previously, I had discussed the invasive plant, garlic mustard -- the description, and its ecological impact. Here's a brief re-cap.
DESCRIPTION: Alliaria petiolata, garlic mustard
* An upright, biennial herb, grows 1-4 inches, appears very early in the spring and throughout the year.
* Grows along roadsides, woods, in shade or sun, forms dense stands
* First-year plants: Low growing, clusters of rounded, scalloped leaves, over-winters.
* Second-year plants: The garlic-scented leaves are triangular to heart shape, saw-toothed edges, with small, white, four-petalled flowers.
* The fruits are very slender, tan pods, and stick upright from the stems, produces hundreds of seeds.
(Sourced from: "Invasive Plant Atlas of New England.")
It is successful in many types of habitats: moist, shaded areas, roadsides, edges of woods, along trails and in forest openings. It outcompetes other plants for water and space. The seeds can be transported by animals, humans, or vehicles, particularly where the seeds might stick in some mud that is transported in shoe or tire treads. It has spread all along the Rail Trail from Ayer to Nashua, New Hampshire!
As garlic mustard invades an area, other species
Next, we'll look at the current research, management options, even how to cook with this herb.
(Sourced from: WBUR and www.plosone.org.)
"As the climate continues to change, nonnative plants -- especially invasive ones -- could become even more widespread and destructive," according to a new Harvard study.
Charles Davis, assistant professor at Harvard University, explains: "Maybe it's because these things are getting such an early jump-start on the season that they're producing leaves much earlier, so they have a competitive advantage, shading out or excluding native species that are in this part of the world."
This in turn destroys surrounding wildlife habitat and causes other environmental problems.
He studied the Walden Pond area. Henry David Thoreau kept detailed records on vegetation and flowering times dating to the 1850s. Davis found that roughly a quarter to a third of the plant species documented by Thoreau have disappeared!
He believes climate change is also responsible for that phenomenon. Familiar plant species such as lilies, orchids, violets, roses and dogwoods are dying off around Walden Pond.
(Sourced from: nashuatelegraph.com,)
Another perspective is from Dartmouth post-doc Jeff Evans who offers a potential new weapon in the war against invasives: mathematical modeling. "I'm seeking vulnerabilities in a species' life cycle. We're looking for a species' Achilles heel."
"It's better to wait until you have rosettes, in the spring, just as they're starting to flower, and tackle it then," he said.
His analysis found that there's no point in targeting seedlings, because of their number and spread. The effort will almost certainly be wasted.
(Sourced from: http:gazettextra.com.)
* Hand-pulling. Get as much of root system as you can. On a damp day, roots will come out of the ground easier, a dandelion digger can help.
* Removing all visible plants in mid-May and again in September or October will quickly diminish the population.
* Seeds can ripen and spread even after plants are pulled, so bag them.
* DO NOT put garlic mustard in home compost. Most compost heaps don't get hot enough to destroy seeds
* Using a mix of approaches works best.
* Spray Round-up in early spring as soon as the temperature is above freezing and the snow cover is gone. It's often the first plant appearing in the spring.
* Apply the chemical carefully. Remember that more is not better and that Roundup kills plants indiscriminately.
First-year plants can be killed easily with herbicide. Second-year plants take off and require hand pulling or cutting at just the right time or they will produce hundreds of new seeds.
"Wildman" Steve Brill calls himself "America's best-known forager."
On his Web site, Brill notes that garlic mustard leaves "are great raw mixed with more mild greens, steamed, simmered or sautéed. Cook no longer than five minutes or the leaves will become mushy." Second-year garlic mustard plants have large taproots that taste like horseradish. For salads, the young plants, including first-year leaves, are mild and flavorful. Flowering plants taste bitter. But leaves can be used in any season, even cooked in winter.
Belonging to the large crucifer family -- kale, cabbage, broccoli -- it possesses beneficial nutrients with high values of vitamins A and C. Use it for pestos, stir fry, soups, sauces, etc. Seeds are a spicy condiment.
Why you should care:
"This plant has the potential to run rampant and unchecked," said Mark Dwyer, horticultural manager at Rotary Gardens in Janesville, Wis. It's starting to work its way into some of our very fragile ecosystems."
It can take over an area in just a few years, effectively eliminating the variety of plants that keep our woods beautiful and healthy. Insects, birds and forest animals all the way up the food chain need diverse woodland to survive.
Now that you are informed, it's our collective responsibility to observe it, to pull and bag it now, before it sets its seeds very shortly. Please, spread the word to your family, friends and neighbors to do their part to get rid of it. If we all take care of even a small section, we can put a huge dent in its existence.
If we act now, we will surely save labor later. I know it is within our power to undertake a small effort for great pay-offs for all.