Saturday, May 21, 2011

Updated: Volunteers needed to identify, pull invasive garlic mustard before it spreads

Garlic mustard, an invasive species, has small, white, four-petaled flowers like these. (Photo by Chris Evans)

HOUGHTON -- A garlic mustard removal effort will take place at 10 a.m. Tuesday, May 24, at Michigan Tech parking lot Number 26 -- the student/commuter lot on Garnet Street.

Volunteers are needed for pulling this invasive plant, mapping out its population, helping botanist Janet Marr photograph plants and action, searching in nearby woods for additional plants, and searching the hillside in eastern Houghton near another garlic mustard site to see if plants have spread.

"As some plants have started to flower, we decided that a pull pretty soon would be a good idea," Marr noted.

Botanist Janet Marr gave a presentation on invasive species at the Houghton Keweenaw Conservation District (HKCD) annual meeting in March 2011. Here she is pictured with HKCD's display and brochures at the meeting. The display was prepared by Sue Haralson, HKCD administrator. (Photo by Keweenaw Now)

Marr, who has been alerting the community to the dangers of the garlic mustard invasive species with posters and information from the Houghton Keweenaw Conservation District, said so far the population in this area is very small so none of these tasks should take very long.

"The Houghton Keweenaw Conservation District would like for you to be on the look out for garlic mustard," Marr said. "This extremely invasive plant may be coming to a Copper Country forest near you."

If you wish to volunteer for the garlic mustard pull on May 24 at Michigan Tech, please contact Janet Marr at 906-337-5529 or

What is garlic mustard?

It's a non-native, extremely invasive plant that has just begun to show up on the Keweenaw Peninsula and has the potential to be a worse invasive species than spotted knapweed! Garlic mustard (Alliaria petiolata) is currently known to be at three sites in Houghton, one in Hancock and one in Laurium.

Second-year leaves of the invasive garlic mustard are heart-shaped to triangular, 1-3 inches wide, coarsely toothed on the edges. They give off a garlic odor when crushed. (Photo by Steven Katovich, U.S. Department of Agriculture Forest Service)

Garbage bags, some tools, gloves, and a brush to clean off shoes when done (to make sure you're not transporting seeds) will be provided at the garlic mustard pull on May 24. You may want to bring shoes to change into and put your boots/shoes in a plastic bag to clean more thoroughly at home if they get muddy. If you have any tools please bring what you have.

Why should we care about garlic mustard?

Out-of-control garlic mustard affects everyone who spends time in the woods (hunters, hikers, birders, bikers, loggers, foresters, photographers, and others). In addition to growing in yards, along roadsides and other disturbed sites in full sun, garlic mustard can totally dominate shaded forest floors within just 5-7 years! It can crowd out native plants, including many tree seedlings. This green invader also adversely affects native insects and other wildlife. Property owners' and land managers' pocketbooks (and townships, counties, etc.) are also affected by costs of garlic mustard control. Therefore, early detection of garlic mustard sites, when it's still early enough to do something about them, helps us all.

What does garlic mustard look like?

In the spring, garlic mustard plants send up flowering stalks with clusters of four-petaled white flowers. These soon develop into erect slender seed pods that will produce numerous seeds. Stem leaves are alternate, triangular, and toothed. Crushed leaves and stems often have a garlic smell. Spring is the easiest time to spot this biennial plant that may grow up to four feet tall. For more identification tips, excellent photos, and other info about garlic mustard, visit these sites:

Flowering stalks of garlic mustard grow 1-4 feet tall. Seeds are small, produced in a row inside the capsule, and black when ripe. A plant may have up to 3000 seeds. Cutting plants a few inches above the soil surface just after the flower stalks have elongated but before the flowers have opened can be effective in preventing seed production and may kill garlic mustard plants. (Photo by Chris Evans)

What can you do?

If you see garlic mustard in Houghton or Keweenaw County, please contact Sue Haralson at the Houghton Keweenaw Conservation District (HKCD) at 906-482-0214 or to report the location. If you have identification questions, you may contact Janet Marr at 906-337-5529 or

Visit the City of Hancock Web site for a poster you can share to alert people to the dangers of invasive garlic mustard.

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