Prevent Garlic Mustard from
Garlic mustard plants flower throughout the spring and summer and
then spread seeds by the thousands. Anyone with undisturbed, natural
areas around their home probably already knows how invasive this
weed can be to more desirable plants. Garlic mustard has spread
throughout most of northern Illinois in the last few years. It can
be found in most places that are somewhat shady, whether in a home
lawn area, woodland, fencerow, or wherever conditions are appropriate.
It spreads rapidly and can displace native or other desired plants
in a relatively short time. Each plant can produce thousands of
seed which can be spread by wildlife, humans, water, or other means.
In Illinois, the plant has mainly a biennial life cycle, completing
its life over a two-year period. After germinating in the spring,
the plant usually stays in the rosette stage for the first year,
appearing as a low plant of heart-shaped leaves, each about two
to eight inches in length. The leaves also have irregular tooth
margins on them. The next spring, the plant sends up a straight,
rather slender flower stalk with small white, four-petaled flower
clusters which will eventually develop seeds. The flower stalks
usually are about one to two feet in height. Since the plant only
flowers in the second year, the plants may appear less numerous
in some years. That can be deceiving, since the plants are just
waiting to complete their life cycle.
The goal is to prevent seed development and spread until the existing
seed bank is exhausted. This may take several years in a confined
area. Cutting and pulling plants before they set seed is one method
that can be done in smaller areas, but can be too labor intensive
for large patches. Controlled burns or herbicides may be needed
in larger areas. Both should be used in a timely manner so to prevent
seed development. Herbicide treatments work best in the spring and
fall when the plants are actively growing.
For further information, contact the local University of Illinois
Extension office. Also many offices of the Illinois Department of
Natural Resources, Soil and Water Conservation Districts or other
local park or forest preserve district will have related information.
June/July 2004: Prevent Garlic Mustard
from Setting Seeds | Gypsy Moth: Know the Facts
| Wetlands and Mosquitoes | Understanding
Herbicides | Choosing Home Lawn Care Services