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Thursday, Dec. 12, 2013
Wanted Dead, NOT Alive: Garlic MustardPosted Monday, April 16, 2012, at 10:15 AM
For photo prints, go to www.stevenfoster.com/prints.html Photo by Steven Foster
Serendipity struck when just last week I was writing up a species account on the plant for the Third Edition of my Field Guide to Medicinal Plants and Herbs (with James A. Duke, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt) due in the spring 2013.
References on the plant were at my fingertips. For better or worse, I knew where some was growing in town.
Jennifer met me at the population, collected a specimen for the scientific record, then pulled all the other plants up from the root and bagged them, ready for destruction. This plant should have its picture on a wanted poster.
Garlic mustard (Alliaria petiolata) is a member of the mustard family native to Eurasia that arrived in North America only to become a very serious weed. It is a plant we do not want in Eureka Springs.
As the name implies, garlic mustard has a garlic-like odor. In Eurasia the plant is either annual or perennial. Jennifer Ogle, whose master's thesis is on this plant, told me that in the U.S. it is known as an obligate biennial -- in other words, it produces a basal rosette of leaves the first year, then shoots up a flowering stalk, goes to seed, and dies the second year, and it always behaves this way (hence "obligate").
It occurs in at least 37 states including Arkansas. In some states this plant is classified as a Class A Noxious Weed, and is prohibited or banned.
Its seeds survive burning. It is adaptable to different habitats and equally happy in shaded woods or an open farm field. Once it gets established, it's tough to get rid of it, short of pulling up each and every plant by the root.
Historically in England, it was used by peasants as a condiment known as "sauce alone." The wild herb was used to flavor breads and butter, salted meats, salads or cooked as a pot herb.
But as a weed in the U.S., it has no redeeming qualities. So if you see this plant, destroy it.
Steven Foster is a world renowned botanical photographer. He has published many books, including 2 for National Geographic
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