Leelanau News and Events

So Long, Invasive Garlic Mustard

By Emily Tyra | June 15, 2020

The Leelanau Conservancy thanks Northwest Michigan Invasive Species Network (NMISN) and citizen volunteers for helping to remove invasive garlic mustard from Leelanau County this spring.

Says Claire Wood, Leelanau Conservancy’s communications director, “Garlic mustard is a huge problem because it is allelopathic, which means its roots emit a chemical that kills fungi in the soil that native plants rely on. One plant can also release hundreds of seeds each season so it spreads very quickly from year to year and can become a monoculture in places where native wildflowers usually flourish — like Clay Cliffs Natural Area — one of the most prolific wildflower sites in the county.”

She adds, “The good news is it’s easy to pull by hand. Unfortunately, since we weren’t able to have volunteers working this spring due to the governor's executive order, we lost some ground on the garlic mustard front. But our two AmeriCorps members have been out and pulling garlic mustard at Clay Cliffs, Palmer Woods and Lighthouse West basically every day for the last 3 weeks, to try to make up for it. And we know of some great citizens who just wanted to help out and brought bags to pull along the trails on their hikes.”

And, in a partnership between the conservancy and NMISN, people with garlic mustard on their own property were able to bring it bagged to a designated dumpster located at Clay Cliffs this spring. (The dumpster was removed late last week, says Wood, as the pulling season is over once garlic mustard goes to seed mid-June.) 

Wood says more proactive projects are in the works to fight invasive species in the county. “In a partnership with the Grand Traverse Band, we’re working on a tree planting project at Chippewa Run Natural Area. Species include American Hazelnut, Serviceberry, Sumac, Bur Oak, American Plum, White Spruce, White Pine and Red Pine. These tree species were selected because they will support a healthier natural system for the area. They will provide fruits, seeds and coverage for native insect and animal species that depend on healthy systems. The trees will also block light and space from invasive species that would otherwise fill into the fields and don’t provide any beneficial relationship for the wildlife.”

If you are interested in volunteering for the Leelanau Conservancy as a trail steward or “work bee warrior,” fill out a volunteer questionnaire on their website.

For those curious about which invasive species to be on the lookout for in Leelanau County, NMISN provides lists of species organized by habitat and a top 12 priority list of invasive species in our area. 

Photo: removing invasive garlic mustard at Clary Cliffs Natural Area, courtesy Leelanau Conservancy

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