If you’re curious what the white flowering plant that is taking over your yard, you’re in the right place. The plant is called Garlic Mustard, Alliaria petiolata. It spreads by seed so if you are trying to control the spread of this plant, DO NOT LET IT FLOWER. Also, if it is in flower, bag up the plant and throw it in the garbage. It has been shown that the seed remains viable for years so you don’t want to compost it. The scary thing about this plant is it has also shown to produce a chemical that suppresses mycorrhizal fungi. Most of our native plants need the fungus to thrive. Garlic Mustard’s ability to suppress the fungus prevents competition, which allows it to spread at will.
This site sits across the street from one of our projects in Westport. Look how it has spread throughout this site.
As you can see, Garlic Mustard has the ability to take over an our native understory. This dominance ultimately chokes out our less dominant native plant communities.
Garlic Mustard is a biennial, germinating as a low foliage plant year one and coming back as a taller, flowering plant in year two before it completes it’s life cycle. Don’t worry though, although the parent has passed, it has seeded thousands of babies for next year.
So how do you deal with this noxious weed? Rule 1, never let it flower. If it is in flower, picking and disposing is best. It is easy to pull. Spraying or burning with a propane torching first year growth, before it sets seed, is also a good strategy. If it has seeded in with other plants, it does remain through the winter so getting to it in late fall or early spring before other herbacious plants wake up is something we try to do on our 10 acre site.