Wresting Garlic Mustard Demons

Wresting Garlic Mustard Demons

I can’t say I really ever knew, or cared about garlic mustard until very recently.  I remember the day however, when I drove along south shore road at Devil’s Lake State Park and I realized that not only the ditches, but a whole forest had been invaded.  There was nothing left under the pines or along the road but garlic mustard.  The land had been transformed.  It happened so quietly that hardly anyone even noticed.  Hey, its green right??  But what many don’t realize of course is that this invasion is not only killing our native plants, but will eventually starve out many animals as well.  It’s really ominous actually, but it’s happening under a camouflage of green.

So last weekend the Friends of Devil’s Lake State Park held a “Garlic Mustard Blitz” in an attempt to get people to help pull the nasty stuff.  It was a bit of a last-minute deal, but still nearly 50 people jumped in to help.  That was fantastic!  I arrived around 10:30 in the morning to get a few pictures.  You can see those here.

After I got my photos of the volunteers, I was ready to head back home and enjoy my day.  This was not going to be one of MY garlic mustard pulling days…  The problem was that on my way out of the park, I had to drive by that very spot where I first realized the scope of the garlic mustard invasion. There it was.. nothing but garlic mustard…

Before I knew it, I was standing in a ditch under the blazing sun, in dress pants and black, long sleeve shirt pulling garlic mustard out from between thorny raspberry whips.

No one else was going to work in this spot. I get it. It seems hopeless and a total waste of time.  Enter Judas Thaddaeus, the patron saint of lost causes. . .  (Just my sort of battle.)  You see, as in any war, the garlic mustard war has its experts as well.  The “Sun Tzu”s of the Garlic Mustard War say that when a parcel of land has become covered, it’s not worth the effort. We are in a defensive war and time is better spent in areas where things seem more manageable. Well, that may be, but I’m not a defensive fighter.  I’d rather jump into the thick of things. Nothing is beyond saving. The land will recover, we just can’t give up on it.  Every inch, every foot, every yard cleared is another chance for native plants to again take hold. What’s more, working along the road encourages folks who normally take no notice to ask.  It offers a chance to inform others and maybe, just maybe recruit more fighters in the war. People love Devil’s Lake State Park. Why wouldn’t they give some time to help save it?

With that in mind, I pulled and pulled and bagged and bagged. I chatted with and answered questions for those who stopped to ask. In the end I had 10 garbage bags full and a small mountain still to bag when I realized I had to stop.. I had to get ready for a kayak tour I was participating in that evening. (And that’s another story!)

A clear line marks progress

A clear line marks progress

As I straightened my slightly stiff back and walked across the road to my truck, I looked back and saw a clear line from separating where I had pulled and where I still needed to go.

You know what they say?  They say when it comes to pulling garlic mustard, always look back toward what you’ve accomplished because if you just look ahead you’ll feel like you’re getting nowhere.  It is sort of like that. But you are getting somewhere.. so you just keep moving..


The road ahead. Garlic Mustard still to be pulled…


The view behind at what has been accomplished…

1 comment

  1. Jacque

    I had my middle school students do this once a year on school grounds. As long as you pull up from the roots after a good rain, it will get better over time. We also put in native seedlings in the hole left by the pulled garlic mustard.

    Don’t give up. It will take a few years but you can get rid of it. And replace it with native perennials. My students raised these from seeds!

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