Sunday, November 1, 2015

Spring Garlic Mustard Pull

Bill Collins, Executive Director, Thumb Land Conservancy

On 2015 May 16, the TLC conducted our biggest Garlic Mustard removal yet on the Dead End Woods Sanctuary in Fort Gratiot Township, Saint Clair County. We had a very good turn-out for us; 13 people, and we filled about 10 garbage bags with Garlic Mustard. It appears we are finally making major progress on eliminating it from the woods after 5 years of pulling. Again, we concentrated on the south side of the preserve where the Garlic Mustard is most widespread and where the infestation likely began from yard waste dumped at the dead end of Wilson Drive. But, we also pulled interior patches that we had not gotten to previously.

Left to right: TLC Intern Alex Roland, SC4 student Cole Meyers, Mike Kabacki from Huron County, and TLC Board Member Dr. Scott Ferguson. Piled and bagged in front is most of the Garlic Mustard we pulled, but there was more.
TLC Intern Alex Roland on the left, and her mother Ann Roland on the right.
TLC Board Member Dan Rhein with his daughter Claire (left) and Joe Zauner of the Blue Water Audubon Society (right) very busily picking Garlic Mustard.
Dan and Claire Rhein.

Some people like posing for the camera while others work diligently.
Garlic Mustard – Alliaria petiolata was brought to North America as a culinary herb in the late 1800’s. It’s native to Eurasia and North Africa, and like so many introduced species, became an invasive weed here. It seems like we didn’t see much of it in the area until the 1990’s, but since then it’s invaded a lot of our forests. Garlic Mustard lives up to its name and is quite tasty, but is also quite invasive in open woodlands, displacing native plant species where it grows in thick patches.

Garlic Mustard - Alliaria petiolata in the Dead End Woods Sanctuary.

Garlic Mustard is easily recognized by the small white flowers on plants that are typically a few feet tall at maturity, but can range from a few inches to over 3 feet tall. Each flower has 4 petals as do all the species in the Mustard Family, otherwise known as the Brassicaceae or the older Family name, Cruciferae, meaning "cross-bearing" and referring to the cross arrangement of the 4 flower petals. Other plants in this same family include mustard, of course, cabbage, broccoli, cauliflower, turnip, radish, horseradish, watercress, and rapeseed, the source of canola oil. Garlic Mustard can also be fairly well recognized by the basically triangular stem leaves with large blunt teeth. The basal leaves at the bottom of the plant are more rounded with wavy edges. Characteristic of the Mustard Family, the seeds are borne in long, thin pods that dry and split open to release the seeds in June and July. Garlic Mustard is biennial, meaning that it typically requires two years to mature. Each mature plant can produce hundreds of seeds that typically survive in the soil for 5 years or more. Because of the dormant seeds in the topsoil, Garlic Mustard control almost always requires multiple years of plant removal until all the seeds are dead.

Garlic Mustard - Alliaria petiolata.

Skunk-cabbage - Symplocarpus foetidus in the Dead End Woods Sanctuary. I don't remember it growing in the woods until recently, but there is quite a bit now.

Marsh-marigold - Caltha palustris. Actually it's not a marigold, but a buttercup in the Buttercup Family - Ranunclaceae.

After our work, we all enjoyed a cookout lunch in the front yard of TLC Board Member Dorothy Craig, even though she was not there to join us. I guess after pulling all that invasive Garlic Mustard, we got a little invasive ourselves. I was the only person bold enough to sample the fresh Garlic Mustard on my grilled hamburger, which was delicious. I told everyone they didn’t realize what they were missing, but I couldn’t even get my dad to try it, which was unusual considering all of the things he’s eaten.

Thank you to all who helped:

Joe Zauner
Cole Meyers
Mike Kabacki
Alex Roland
Ann Roland
Tiffany Reagin
Traci Brown
Dan Rhein
Claire Rhein
Scott Ferguson
Bob Collins
Dorothy Craig
Cheryl Collins
Bill Collins

Thank you also to Meijer of Marysville and Neiman’s Family Market of Saint Clair for providing food and materials.