This is a story about people facing down an overwhelming invader. Who will win the war is not certain, but the battle against Garlic Mustard has been joined.
Garlic Mustard is a plant native to Europe that had few natural enemies in Michigan. With rapid growth and lots of seeds, this invasive species is quick to fill in open and disturbed spaces in wooded areas, overtaking native plants to create monocultures. Left unchecked, this invasive plant steals the light, water and space from native wild flowers like spring beauty, trillium and trout lily.
Worse, Garlic Mustard uses chemical warfare. The plants are toxic to the larva of native butterflies; and some of the chemicals released by Garlic Mustard can inhibit growth of other plants. Researchers say these chemicals can reduce the survival of trees seedlings.
So, the Leelanau Conservancy and the Northwest Michigan Invasive Species Network have declared war on Garlic Mustard. These groups organize regular work days with volunteers to pull out the plant by its roots before they go to seed. Such efforts have proven to be effective over the long term at combating the spread of Garlic Mustard.
This year, the Leelanau Conservancy is also using propane torches to help burn out the first year seedlings before they become full florets. They hope to reduce the number of plants that need to be pulled in the coming year.
Both the Leelanau Conservancy and Northwest Michigan Invasive Species Network encourage people to avoid moving or spreading any part of this plant. Cleaning boots before entering and leaving hiking areas help. Removing it around the home and helping on work days are also useful contributions