In Your Backyard: Garlic Mustard

A close-up of garlic mustard.

Written by Bryn Scriver, Lakeshore Nature Preserve Volunteer & Outreach Coordinator

Garlic mustard may sound yummy (it was brought to North America by early settlers as a culinary herb), but, without its European insects and diseases to keep it in check, garlic mustard is an invasive plant that is changing Wisconsin’s woodlands and forests.

Several traits contribute to garlic mustard’s invasiveness. It’s not very picky about where it grows, tolerating shade and sun and moist to dry soil conditions. Not only does it start growing earlier than our native plants, but it also exudes chemical compounds that reduce seed germination and growth of other plants around it. Additionally, each garlic mustard plant is capable of producing hundreds of tiny seeds that are easily spread by humans—on our shoes, tires, or anytime we move soil.

For these reasons, garlic mustard can invade high-quality woodlands, greatly reducing the number and types of plants in our woodlands and forests. With less plant diversity, we have fewer insects, birds and other wildlife that can call those places home.

The Lakeshore Nature Preserve has been lucky to have a cadre of volunteers help control this invasive plant over the years. In fact, pulling garlic mustard is an annual rite of spring! You can help by joining one of the volunteer events listed below:

Sunday March 31, 9 a.m. to noon, meet at Picnic Point parking lot 129

Saturday April 13, 9 a.m. to noon, meet at Picnic Point parking lot 129

Saturday April 27, 9 a.m. to noon, meet at Picnic Point parking lot 129

Sunday May 5, 1 to 4 p.m., meeting place yet to be determined

  • Work occurs off-trail on uneven ground.
  • Long pants and closed-toe shoes required.
  • Canceled in case of rain, lightning, or strong winds.
  • Groups require advance notice.
  • Youths must be accompanied by a parent.

For more information please contact the Preserve Volunteer Coordinator, bryn.scriver@wisc.edu.

Please remember, there is no collecting, pulling, or picking of plants or wildflowers in the Lakeshore Nature Preserve outside of volunteer events.

Visit the Lakeshore Nature Preserve website for more information.