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A Nasty Invasive Plant in our woods – Garlic Mustard

Scientific Name: Alliaria petiolata

Common Name: Garlic mustard, hedge garlic, sauce-alone, jack-by-the-hedge, poor man’s mustard, jack-in-the-bush, garlic root, garlicwort, mustard root


  • An herbaceous, flowering plant that smells like garlic when crushed.
  • Heart-shaped basal rosettes (leaves) appear in year one at ground level.
  • In the second year, stems shoot up (1-4 feet) and develop flowers and seeds.
  • Leaves become more toothed and triangular in shape.
  • Clusters of tiny, white, 4-petaled flowers bloom in early spring.
  • Seed pods are green, long and narrow and look like stems – turning brown in fall.

Native to: Europe

First introduced: to the US in the 1860s (Long Island), and has spread throughout the Northeast and Midwest. Garlic mustard thrives in wooded areas and can tolerate deep shade, partly because it emerges and blooms before trees develop leaves in spring. It is toxic or unpalatable to many native herbivores, as well as to some native butterflies and pollinators.

Some speculate that an overabundance of deer help garlic mustard thrive as they don’t like it, and they’ll eat the other competing plants around it. In any event, while it’s easy to pull up – must pull up the entire root – it can take a couple of years to completely clear an area of this nasty plant. Pull them when you see them and then put them in your garbage bins or bags – DO NOT COMPOST or they will spread. It’s toxic to other plants and tree seedlings, and depletes the soil of the nutrients that our native flora and fauna prefer. When you see it – pull it!