Caring for and Healing the Earth

Alien Plants

Garlic Mustard - Why is it so Invasive?


Garlic Mustard is one of the most successful invasive alien plant species to ever hit eastern North America. In many respects, it's no surprise. Garlic mustard embodies many of the prime characteristics of invasive plants.

  • It flowers early in the season, thus releasing its seeds ahead of other plant species.

  • It's a prolific seed producer.

  • Its seeds last for years.

  • The seeds germinate readily, and do not require specialized conditions to do so.

  • It can grow just about anywhere.

  • It has no predator - ie, no bird or animal eats it. It is edible by humans, though (so start collecting and give it a try!)

  • It photosynthesizes all year, even through the winter if it's not covered by snow.

  • It's ready to "bolt" (grow quickly upward) first thing in the spring, thus shading out and crowding out other plant species.

  • Each plant produces several stalks, increasing its seed-producing potential and the area that it crowds and shades out.

  • It seems to prefer disturbed ground, of which there is no shortage due to the activities of humans.

  • Many people are completely unaware and ignorant of its potential for destruction of native forest plant species. I have even heard an herbalist recommend that it be grown and transplanted!

  • It grows in sun or shade.

  • It is not a specialized plant - that is, it does not have a dependency on a particular environment, soil type, animal, insect, bird, or weather condition to grow. In short, it's a generalist.

  • It withstands drought well.


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