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NATUREWATCH

Garlic mustard is a tasty invasive species that can be eaten or just bagged up with the trash. Just don't let it go to seed!

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Garlic mustard is among the more invasive weeds that competes with native wildflowers.

GARLIC MUSTARD (Alliaria petiolate)

It's that time of the year — time to harvest garlic mustard — for salads, and to eradicate the rest of this tasty garlic-smelling spring salad, a biennial native of Europe. It is among the more invasive weeds that compete with native wildflowers growing in woodlands, roadsides, hedgerows, gardens, yards, fields and just about every else it can get started. At the most, pull up this pestiferous plant before it goes to seed and bag it up for tossing into the trash. It is one of the more harmful weeds. I may suggest larger plots can be treated with herbicides in the winter. I usually just gently pull the plants and bag for the trash. I can’t repeat it too often: Never let it go to seed!

One of the reasons to pull garlic mustard before the seeds ripen is that they remain viable for up to five years. And even worse, it produces chemicals that reduce the growth of plants around it, so when garlic mustard starts to grow in an area, it can quickly outcompete native vegetation. It can thrive in forests and, in some cases, can harm the forest plants, especially saplings.

It is, however, one of the tastiest invasive weeds you can harvest (Just destroy the flowers before they go to seed and pull all the plants to eradicate them.)

On the internet I found an interesting vinaigrette to try out (and one I just may make).

A number of years ago, a Naturewatch reader chastised me for not providing recipes for this wonderful springtime weed and mentioned one of his favorites, a wild garlic mustard leaf chicken. He never gave me the recipe though, and I never experienced it (I’m not that good a chef.)

TURTLE CROSSING!

It's again time for turtles to be crossing the road!

Why did the turtle cross the road? MassWildlife has a fun online post answering that question: mass.gov/news/why-did-the-turtle-cross-the-road.

Spring is the time when hibernating turtles emerge and start to travel in search of food and a mate. Road mortality can have a big impact on turtle populations. Slow down and stay alert to protect turtles on the move this spring.

And, a turtle crossing a road does not invite taking it home as a pet! Yes, even if the Eastern painted turtle is not protected, PLEASE do not think it would make a fine pet. (That is what pet stores are for.) They appear to become less common every year. At least that is my opinion.

When egg time arrives, I get emails about what to do if a female lays eggs in your yard. The ideal answer is to fence it in so that kids and pets do not damage it. The two common species encountered in the Berkshires are the snapping turtle and painted turtle. Snapping turtle eggs will hatch in 3 to 4 months and painted turtle eggs will hatch in 2 1/2 to 3 months. Keep an eye on both species as the time approaches and, upon hatching and emerging, place them in a nearby body of water — preferably a pond or lake in a less active place. If other kinds of turtles are found, contact me and I will let you know the schedule. And probably contact a local reptile specialist, such as professor Tom Tyning at Berkshire Community College.

All but three species of turtles in Massachusetts — eastern painted turtle, stinkpot, and common snapping turtle are protected and cannot be captured and kept. To possess any other turtles, a permit is required — this includes live or dead individuals, including shells.

NO MOW THOUGHTS

Ned K., of Pittsfield, wrote, “I do not think I have seen where you have endorsed No Mow May. You may want to promote No Mow May.

A bit of background: From WMTW in Portland, Maine : "A movement aimed to help bees survive and thrive is underway during the month of May. “No Mow May” encourages people to cut back on mowing their lawns or even skip it altogether." 

What is No Mow May? The goal of No Mow May is to allow grass to grow unmown for the month of May, creating habitat and forage for early-season pollinators. This is particularly important in urban areas where floral resources are often limited. (Not too late. We often leave dandelions for bees to dine upon).

MORE HUMMING REPORTS AND MORE

Paul and Lenore, of Stockbridge, wrote: “Yesterday (5/1/22) we saw our first hummingbird of the season. She was just here once or twice, and we haven’t seen her again — perhaps she had not arrived at her destination yet? I enjoyed your column on bats; we never see them here anymore — white-nose syndrome seems to have taken its toll, although friends nearby do see them at their house.”

Brenda D., of Lenox, wrote, “On 5/5 as I was reading outside, I heard what I thought was a loud buzzing. Turning to the sound and expecting to see a large bee, I instead encountered a ruby-throated hummingbird. What I saw filled me with joy, wonder, and awe. The ruby-red was more magnificent than a jewel as was the iridescent body. What a gift — pure magic.”

Phillip, of Pownal, Vt. wrote, “When working in the garden on May 1, something buzzed by me. I guess that I was the only flower nearby. It was only one hummingbird that I could not say was a male or female, but it caused me to quit gardening to go into the house and mix up some sugar water for my little friend. I have several feeders (a pain to keep fresh, so I never bother to fill more than one-third). I have one next to the flower garden plated for hummers and butterflies, and one on the porch.“

Jennifer, of Great Barrington wrote, “I saw a hummingbird on May 6, kind of late. It didn’t visit the feeder that I usually put out around the first, as you suggested a few years ago.”

Peter, of Pittsfield, and Marilyn, of Dalton, both (separately) wrote that they saw chipping sparrows on April 26.

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