Garlic Mustard

Garlic mustard is one of the invasive species that the State of Maryland currently considers the most troublesome. Learn more below.

Garlic Mustard
Sannse, “Garlic Mustard,” October 1, 2010 via
Wikimedia Commons, Creative Commons


According to the Plant Conservation Alliance's Garlic Mustard page, garlic mustard was probably introduced into North America by settlers. It is now widespread throughout the Mid-Atlantic region.

Garlic mustard plants grow low to the ground. They have heart-shaped leaves that smell like garlic when crushed. In the spring, the plants have small white flowers that look like four-pointed stars.

The Threat

According to the Plant Conservation Alliance, garlic mustard poses a severe threat to forest environments in Maryland (and throughout the rest of the eastern US). Because it grows quickly in the springtime, garlic mustard competes vigorously with native plants and prevents them from becoming established. Animals that depend on those native plants for food are also threatened.

Perhaps the biggest threat is to the West Virginia white butterfly. Garlic mustard destroys the butterfly's native food supply, but the garlic mustard plants that remain are toxic to the butterfly.

Control and Removal

Because garlic mustard seeds can live in the ground for up to five years, the key to controlling the plant is preventing the seeds from being formed. In the spring, before the plants can go to seed, volunteers from the Friends of the Northwest Branch in Silver Spring Maryland gather to pull as many plants as they can find.