Garlic Mustard is also known as Hedge Garlic.
General: Garlic Mustard is a biennial plant from the mustard family (Brassicaceae).
Flowers: Are numerous, white, with four petals.
Stem: In its first year, Garlic Mustard takes the form of a lower-growing carpet which remains green over winter. Second-year flower stalks are 15 – 75 cm tall, with flowers on top. The base of the stems is purple.
Leaves: Are triangular to heart-shaped with large teeth. Leaves are 5 – 8 cm across, grow in an alternate pattern along the stem, and smell like garlic or onion when crushed.
Fruit: Garlic Mustard produces numerous slender seedpods that are 4 – 6 cm long, and contain black seeds.
Roots: Are fibrous and typically s-shaped.
- Wild Violet (Viola spp.)
- Fringecup (Tellima grandiflora)
- Nipplewort (Lapsana communis)
- Sweet Cicely (Osmorhiza berteroi)
The easiest way to distinguish Garlic Mustard from other plants is to crush the leaves, which emit a strong garlic or onion smell.
Habitat and Origin
Garlic Mustard is native to Eurasia, and widespread from Sweden all the way to India. It was originally brought over to North America by European settlers, and believed to have arrived on Long Island in the 1860’s for culinary use. It was first recorded in British Columbia in 1948.
Garlic Mustard is shade tolerant, though it will survive in full sun. It prefers rich, moist forest floors or wooded stream banks and thrives in medium heat and high moisture. Garlic Mustard grows in a wide range of habitats and spreads quickly along roadsides, trails, and fence lines.
Propagation & Vectors of Spread
Garlic Mustard reproduces by seed. Each plant can produce upwards of 500 seeds, which remain viable in the soil for more than 5 years. Garlic Mustard can also self-pollinate.
Garlic Mustard seeds are commonly dispersed by animals, water, and humans, as its seeds stick to boots, clothing or fur. The seeds’ ability to survive in the soil for several years also aids in the plant’s dispersal.
Ecological and Economic Impacts
- Forms dense monocultures that reduce biodiversity.
- Has long-lasting effects on ecosystems; may permanently alter forests, even after removal.
- Releases allelopathic chemicals that change soil chemistry and prevent growth of other plants.
- Outcompetes and actively displaces native woodland plants.
- Carries diseases like mosaic viruses which may affect other garden plants or crops.
- Reduces the aesthetic value of natural areas (by reducing biodiversity).
What Can I Do?
Garlic Mustard is not yet found in the Sea to Sky corridor, so PREVENTION of further spread is key.
Learn to identify Garlic Mustard: use the images presented in this profile page to learn how to identify Garlic Mustard.
What to do if you spot it: You can report any Garlic Mustard sighting by clicking here.
- Regularly monitor properties for weed infestations.
- Ensure soil and gravel are uncontaminated before transport.
- Check wildflower mixes to ensure that they do not contain Garlic Mustard.
- Ensure that plants are disposed of in a garbage bag if found in floral arrangements to prevent seeds from spreading.
- Do not unload, park or store equipment or vehicles in infested areas; remove plant material from any equipment, vehicles or clothing used in such areas and wash equipment and vehicles at designated cleaning sites before leaving infested areas.
- Do not plant Garlic Mustard in a garden, no matter how well-contained its enclosure may seem.
- Do not move soil that has been contaminated with Garlic Mustard.
- Do not compost!
- Hand-pull small infestations and bag the plant material immediately for appropriate disposal.
- Make sure you remove at least the upper half of the roots in order to stop buds at the root crown from sending up new flower stalks.
- Alternatively, Garlic Mustard can also be mowed to the ground before it flowers, but remember to revisit the site to control for re-sprouting.
- Glyphosate is effective for Garlic Mustard control.
- We recommend that any herbicide application is carried out by a person holding a valid BC Pesticide Applicator Certificate. Before selecting and applying herbicides, you must review and follow herbicide labels and application rates; municipal, regional, provincial and federal laws and regulations; species-specific treatment recommendations, and site-specific goals and objectives.
There is no biological control available for this plant.
- Foraging could also contribute to Garlic Mustard control, as the leaves are edible and have a mild garlic taste.
- Young leaves can replace basil in pesto recipes and the roots are sometimes used as a substitute for horseradish.
- City of Victoria, Garlic Mustard Invasive Species Alert, https://www.victoria.ca/assets/Departments/Parks~Rec~Culture/Parks/Documents/invasive-species-garlic-mustard.pdf
- District of Saanich, Garlic Mustard Invasive Species Alert, https://www.saanich.ca/assets/Community/Documents/garlic-alert-web.pdf
- Government of British Columbia, Garlic Mustard Invasive Species Alert Factsheet, https://www2.gov.bc.ca/assets/gov/environment/plants-animals-and-ecosystems/invasive-species/alerts/garlic_mustard_alert.pdf
- Invasive Species Centre, Garlic Mustard, https://www.invasivespeciescentre.ca/invasive-species/meet-the-species/invasive-plants/garlic-mustard/?gclid=CjwKCAjwq_D7BRADEiwAVMDdHl8wGaxdXvoAajXvYAyFimmZoBF41-9U5eSR4flrWAnHYvOMEQPczBoCJQ8QAvD_BwE
- Invasive Species Council of British Columbia, How Gardeners Can Control Garlic Mustard, https://bcinvasives.ca/news-events/recent-highlights/how-gardeners-can-control-garlic-mustard
- Nature Conservancy Canada, Garlic Mustard, https://www.natureconservancy.ca/en/what-we-do/resource-centre/invasive-species/garlic_mustard.html
- Ontario Invasive Plant Council, Best Management Practices in Ontario: Garlic Mustard, https://www.ontarioinvasiveplants.ca/wp-content/uploads/2016/07/OIPC_BMP_GarlicMustard.pdf