The invasion of garlic mustard and common buckthorn

By MPP Toby Barrett

To The Haldimand Press

The trillium is a symbol of spring – Ontario’s white floral emblem. But there’s another symbol of how invasives can dominate our landscape – the white blossom of garlic mustard.

Like many invasives, garlic mustard is highly competitive and can force out natural species – like Ontario’s trillium. It produces an incredible number of seeds, can self-pollinate, and chemically inhibits the growth of other plants.

This European herb was introduced to North America in the 1800s as food. It’s now running rampant provincewide. It is not only found in woodlots, but also backyards.

This biennial grows low to the ground in the first year, with dark-green kidney shaped leaves with deep veins, usually in a round cluster. The second year, it sprouts vertically, growing on stalks with medium-green, triangular serrated leaves with small, white flowers.

Garlic mustard roots change soil chemistry and prevent other nearby species from growing. The roots’ chemicals are present in the leaves and deter herbivores from eating them.

Landowners can make a difference by removing garlic mustard – even in backyards. Chemical herbicides or pulling the plants works for larger stands but don’t compost the plants as the seeds remain viable.

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