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John Fulton

John Fulton
Former County Extension Director

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In The Backyard

Horticulture columns and tips done on a timely basis
Garlic Mustard

Garlic Mustard

Posted by John Fulton -

Garlic mustard is considered an invasive species, and some states have declared it a noxious weed. Illinois hasn't declared it such, at least not yet. The problem with garlic mustard is how quickly it spreads. It spreads so quickly it tends to choke out much of the desirable undergrowth in timber areas. At this time of year, the plants are still in the rosette stage described below, but they will soon begin to extend their flower stems if they are in their second year of growth.

Garlic mustard is a cool season biennial herb with stalked, triangular to heart-shaped, coarsely toothed leaves that give off an odor of garlic when crushed. First-year plants appear as a rosette of green leaves close to the ground. Rosettes remain green through the winter and develop into mature flowering plants the following spring. Flowering plants of garlic mustard reach from 2 to 3-1/2 feet in height and produce button-like clusters of small white flowers, each with four petals in the shape of a cross.

Control of garlic mustard is somewhat difficult. Seeds can remain viable for at least five years in the soil. Small amounts can be pulled up (including the roots). Garlic mustard can re-grow from root material. For herbicides, glyphosate (Roundup) is the most often recommended. Remember glyphosate kills broadleaves and grasses it gets on. There has been some success with 2,4-D LV400 where there aren't concerns with other understory plants. Very large patches have been controlled with fire, but that completely destroys the understory of timbers. Remember to monitor areas for at least five years due to the seed dormancy period.

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