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On the Hunt for a Plant Invader

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
March 26, 2013

Volunteers will be out in force in April and May to reduce the influence of a nice-looking but destructive plant called garlic mustard. The invasive pest, a biennial herb brought to the New World by European settlers, is widely spread, so more volunteers are needed.

East Central Illinois Master Naturalists and its Invasive Plant Task Force is sponsoring its 3rd annual Great Garlic Mustard Hunt from the first of April through mid-May to reduce the influence of this plant. "Hunts" will be conducted in each of Urbana Park District's natural areas, at each of the Champaign County Forest Preserve District sites, Allerton Park, and Kickapoo State Park. If you have a favorite, come out to make it better. If you've never been, explore a little! Bring family; bring a friend! This is a good activity for "Hunters" of all ages and easily accommodates groups.

Garlic mustard hides its bad side under a charming front. It is full of vitamins and available early in the spring. It has a delicate white flower and the leaves smell pungently of garlic.

It quickly escaped the gardens of the early settlers and invaded the surrounding woodlands. Since its arrival it has progressively spread across the country. It is widespread in Illinois and is a prominent invasive plant in the Champaign-Urbana area and surrounding counties.

Garlic mustard crowds out native wildflowers. It can grow so thickly that it will prevent the seedlings necessary to replace trees that make up the forest. What this means for us – all of us – is that we're losing not only the wildflowers themselves, but the habitat necessary for the many songbirds, butterflies and other wildlife that would normally thrive in our natural areas and visit our backyards.

Garlic mustard isn't only a problem in natural areas. This very adaptable plant is now making a return to the home landscape. It produces thousands of seeds per plant and these seeds can remain viable for 5 to 7 – even 10 years! Once established, it is very difficult to eradicate. Even when pulled, plants in flower maintain enough energy to produce seeds so proper disposal is essential. The plants should either be put into plastic bags and left to decompose or, if allowed in the community, put into paper lawn waste bags for burning. But, please! Don't throw it onto the compost pile! The compost pile doesn't achieve high enough temperatures to disable garlic mustard seeds.

For dates, times, more information about garlic mustard and to register (no fee) http://web.extension.illinois.edu/cfiv/mn/4048.html

Celebrate success May 4 at Homer Lake Forest Preserve with its Natural Playscape, Interpretation Center, and trails. For more information or to make arrangements for a group, contact Marilyn Leger (217) 417-2304 or marilyn_jim@hotmail.com

Source: Sandra Mason, Extension Educator, Horticulture, slmason@uiuc.edu