How Garlic Mustard Spreads
This weed spreads exclusively by seed. Hikers, animals and road maintenance equipment spread garlic mustard seeds. Wind dispersal is minor, however, flowing water in stream corridors can spread the seeds.
How To Identify Garlic Mustard
Garlic mustard is a biennial that forms a basal rosette of kidney-shaped, scalloped leaves in the first year, and an elongated flower stalk in the second year. Leaves are alternate on the stem, sharply toothed with a triangular shape. Crushed leaves produce a distinct garlic odor. Garlic mustard typically flowers in April and May. Plants have one flowering stem with numerous white flowers that have four separated petals. Plant height ranges from 12 to 48 inches. Seeds are black, oblong in rows within a long narrow pod.
Garlic Mustard Look Alikes
- Wild Ginger (Asarum caudatum)
- Fringecup (Tellima grandiflora)
- Piggy-back Plant (Tolmiea menziesii)
- Creeping Charlie or Ground Ivy (Glecoma hederacea) - Leaves are similar, but creeps along the ground (roots on the stem nodes). It is also a weed, so remove it.
Controlling Garlic Mustard
You can pull out small patches by hand or spray with herbicide. Pulled material will continue to flower and set seed: be sure to bag pulled plants and put them in the garbage. Mowed plants will re-grow and set seed, so don't rely on mowing as a method of control. Clean your shoes after hiking in areas with garlic mustard plants so you don't spread garlic mustard seeds on your next hike.