To the editor of THE EAGLE:
As one of those mysterious people seen along the roadsides lately pulling garlic mustard, I was asked, "Why garlic mustard? Why not knotweed or goutweed or barberry or multiflora rose or any other of the hundreds of invasives presently marching on our woods?" I answered, "Because it's easy to pull and poses a significant threat to our maple trees."
Garlic mustard is scary stuff. One plant can produce 15,000 seeds. The seeds can travel up to 70 feet in a year and they are viable in the soil for five years. Do the math.
Garlic mustard is even scarier when you take into account that it sprouts early in the spring and displaces the early spring flowers like trillium, spring beauties, Dutchman's britches, and toothworts upon which butterflies depend.
Even more insidious than that, though, is that garlic mustard alters the soil composition of our woods. It produces chemicals that decompose the leaf litter, kill amphibians,
and disrupt the relationship between hardword trees and the mycorrhizal fungi upon which they depend for nutrients. Within 10 years, a garlic mustard infestation can kill all the plants and saplings in a hardword forest. Particularly threatened are the sugar maple, the red maple and the white ash. In short, garlic mustard has the ability to significantly alter the composition of the woods upon which many of us not only depend upon for our livelihood but have a deep and enduring love for.
It is not a hopeless situation. There are things that can be done to control garlic mustard, but they must be done now.
Spot a patch of garlic mustard, particularly off the roadsides and in the woods, and pull it up. Place it in a plastic bag and let it decompose in a safe spot. There is weed whacking after the plants have blossomed. This is particularly good for larger colonizations. There are chemicals that can be applied after consulting a knowledgeable source. There are studies presently being conducted on biological controls.
If every homeowner made an effort to pull the garlic mustard in their yard and on the roadside, and if every landowner made an effort to protect their forests, garlic mustard could be in an invasive of the past.