Saturday, March 31, 2012

A Saturday Drive

Day 73
The Daily DuBrule

Today was the final day in a week long marathon of teaching pruning. I did a really fun hands-on class in Colchester to a very enthusiastic group. I enjoyed my road trip to the home of the woman who hosted the workshop as it brought me through some gorgeous woodlands on winding roads that I had never explored before.

I was struck by the greenness of the woods. As I looked more carefully, I realized that everything I was seeing that was already green was an exotic invasive. Barberry. Multiflora rose. Honeysuckle. And the most prolific of them all on this journey, garlic mustard.

Garlic mustard (Alliaria petiolata) has large, rounded leaves and clusters of white flowers. It seeds so prolifically that it can cover large tracts of land within a few years. If you dig it up, the roots smell a bit like garlic. It reminds me of a clump of hollyhock foliage. What makes this plant so destructive is that the roots have allelopathic properties. That is a fancy word that basically means it gives off chemicals from its roots that inhibit other plants (or beneficial bacteria in the soil) from growing. 

As a baby seedling, it is easy to pull up. Once its established, you have to dig it up. The worst thing you can do, if you don't have the time to remove it, is let it go to seed. If nothing else, mow it down and NEVER let it flower. 

These invasives green up earlier and stay green later into the season than our native plants. That's one reason why they can get a foothold so easily. Late March is an excellent time to spot them. As you survey your own property, "read the woods" and see if you identify the plants that have already leafed out. Any effort to eradicate invasive species done now will really pay off later when you are so busy tending your gardens that it will be the last thing on your mind. 

Here is a great link to see pictures and read the gory details on this exotic invasive scourge of our woodlands. Read it and weep. Then take action.

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