Commentary by Mary Kissel
Spring is certainly in the air and definitely underfoot.
Chances are if you tromp through the woods today you’ll have a carpet of garlic mustard beneath your feet. As you crush the greens you will get a subtle whiff of well, garlic. Thousands of years ago Europeans cultivated the plant, and it is recorded as one of the earliest spices known to that region. But sadly in the 1800s it migrated to the U.S. and has since been propagating and laying waste to indigenous plants in the area. How unsavory is garlic mustard? Even the deer won’t eat it.
Poor garlic mustard, you’ve gotten such a bad rap. But truly it’s a useful spice plant that has been let out of its environment. It’s out of control.
The precious tiny early spring blooms in the forest are defenseless from this invader unless we help take care of them. Pale pink spring beauties, trillium, hepatica, pristine white bloodroot, Virginia bluebells, yellow celandine poppies, pale purple Jacob’s ladder, and many other delights, all in pastel shades need your help and need it now.
In early spring, fine little sprays of beautiful pastels flourish and paint the Indiana landscape. Each year now just green plants with white flowers – garlic mustard – are replacing the beautiful blush of pastels.
You can help. Take a walk on the Monon Trail and take with you a few plastic grocery sacks. Yep, it’s that easy.
You are going for the full body work out. You walk, you bend down and pull up the insidious bystanders on the trail. Good for your range of motion and your stewardship muscles.
Early spring – today – is the time to do it – put the garlic mustard out of its misery by pulling it from its root and safely bagging up its ready-to-bloom buds.
This is key: it must be taken out now. Once the flower blooms, it’s all about seeds in the wind, causing more wildfire-like spreading of the invader.
There are many opportunities to join in on communal eradication, but truly all you need is a healthy sense of responsibility to your environment, an attitude of love for the wildflowers and a few plastic bags in your pocket as you go out for a walk.
Feel good. Pull out the garlic mustard.
Mary Kissel is a Carmel resident, observer, writer and photographer.