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Garlic Mustard

Alliaria petiolata
Updated Nov 04, 2022
 
1

Make a Positive Identification

  • Garlic mustard is an invasive, herbaceous plant (soft leaves and stems) that spreads by seeds.
  • It completes its lifecycle over two years (biennial).
Species: Garlic Mustard
Garlic mustard plant

Chris Evans, University of Illinois, Bugwood.org

Garlic mustard stems grow from 3–4 feet tall and wide. White flowers form at the top of the stem in the spring.

Species: Garlic mustard
Garlic mustard rosettes

Tom Heutte, USDA Forest Service, Bugwood.org

Seeds germinate in the late winter or early spring and grow into rosettes with kidney-shaped, toothed leaves. Individual plants live as rosettes one year.

Species: Garlic Mustard
Garlic mustard flowers and leaves

Garlic mustard plants live for two years (biennial). In the spring of its second year garlic mustard grows stems and triangular leaves with toothed edges. The leaves are arranged opposite each other along the stem. White flowers with four petals grow at the top of the stems.

Species: Garlic Mustard
Garlic mustard pods

Chris Evans, University of Illinois, Bugwood.org

Garlic mustard spreads quickly by seed. Larger, mature garlic mustard plants make up to 8,000 seeds. The seeds form in narrow pods (shown in photo) in the late spring. By late June, the seed pods pop open, to spread the seeds.

Species: Garlic Mustard
Garlic mustard growing in a forest

Daniel Herms, The Ohio State University, Bugwood.org

Garlic mustard quickly dominates natural areas such moist forests and dry woodlands. It suppresses native plant growth. The loss of native plants reduces the habitat value of the area.

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LOOK-ALIKE: WILD MUSTARD
Species: Wild Mustard
Wild mustard plants with flowers
  • Garlic mustard is confused with other mustard family plants that have white flowers. For example, wild mustard (Raphanus raphanistrum) (shown in photo) has similar white flowers with four petals.
  • Wild mustard’s leaves are longer and shaped like a spatula compared to the leaves of garlic mustard.

Different risks or methods

Wild mustard is a weedy species in the Pacific Northwest. Control it if needed.

 
2

Garlic Mustard Benefits

  • Garlic mustard provides nectar and pollen for insects.
  • It is also edible for people. You can eat garlic mustard leaves and flowers.
Only eat wild edible plants you correctly identify. Thoroughly wash before eating. Only eat garlic mustard from your own property. Don’t eat garlic mustard plants that have been sprayed with chemicals or growing on roadsides. Consider whether the soil in which the plant is growing has been contaminated.
 

Garlic Mustard Risks

  • Garlic mustard forms a dense stand of plants and dominates the forest understory and edges.
  • Seeds spread easily and live in the soil for many years.
Risk Card
Does it cause harm?
Adults & Children
None
Property
High
Pets
None
Annoyance
High
Environment
High
Action Highly Recommended
 
3

TAKE ACTION

If you have garlic mustard on your property, take action to control it.

What damage does garlic mustard cause?
Garlic mustard quickly dominates natural areas ranging from moist forests and dry woodlands. It suppresses native plant growth. The loss of native plants reduces the habitat value of the area.

Do I need to take action?
Yes. Remove individual plants and small patches in the spring. Established patches require several years to control.

 
4

PREVENT GARLIC MUSTARD

Garlic mustard early growth

Leslie J. Mehrhoff, University of Connecticut, Bugwood.org

Look for New Growth of Garlic Mustard During the Winter
  • Plan control actions in winter or early spring.
  • Continue to monitor the area each year.
Gloved hand using metal brush to clean shovel

Weston Miller, Oregon State University

Remove Dirt from Shoes and Equipment
  • After working or traveling in an area with garlic mustard, clean your boots and tools. Use a wire brush to remove soil and seeds.
  • If you drive into the garlic mustard stand, clean your vehicle to remove seeds.
Landscape area with native plants growing densely together

Weston Miller, Oregon State University

Install New Plants
  • Take care of the plants to get them established and to suppress garlic mustard regrowth.
  • Replanting stabilizes the soil surface, shades garlic mustard seedlings, and creates habitat.
  • Garlic mustard presence and removal activities may significantly damage a site. There may be few or no desirable plants remaining.
  • Plan for at least 2-3 years of monitoring and maintenance.
  • Your local Extension specialist, soil and water conservation district, or a professional revegetation specialist can suggest strategies for your area.
 
5
Solutions for Garlic Mustard

Early Detection and Rapid Response

Watch for garlic mustard on property you manage. Remove it before it becomes a bigger problem.

Physically Remove Plants and Non-Chemical Options

Using hand tools to kill plants and pulling plants from the ground during the spring are the preferred methods to get rid of garlic mustard.

Herbicides (Weed Killers)

Herbicides effectively control garlic mustard when used according to the label instructions.

Monitoring and Follow-Up

Following removal, return to the area and look for regrowth and seedlings. Watch for garlic mustard rosettes in the fall and take action as needed. This invasive plant requires annual management.

NEED HELP?

Consider a licensed pest control company. Learn How to Hire a Pest Control Company.
Your local Extension Specialist in Oregon  and other states  can suggest other methods.

Jump To

Method Does it work? Is it safe? Recommendation
A
Physically Remove Plants
Very effective
Low risk
B
Herbicides Triclopyr & Glyphosate
Effective
Moderate risk
Use if Necessary
C
If Using Herbicides, Protect Yourself & Minimize Risks
 
A

Physically Remove Plants

Non-Chemical Method

Leslie J. Mehrhoff, University of Connecticut, Bugwood.org

Physically Remove Plants

  • Pull at the base of the plant to remove the entire root as shown in the photo.
  • Remove garlic mustard rosettes with tools such as hoes.
Does it work?
Very effective
  • Successful removal requires several years of monitoring and manual work.
  • Use preventive measures for best results.
How much effort?
High effort
  • Stems of two-year-old plants are easily pulled from the ground when the soil is moist.
  • It’s crucial to pull out the root crown and tap root.
What's the risk?
Low risk
Possible risk of exposure or harm from chemicals
NONE

Mowing Garlic Mustard is Not Recommended

  • Mowing will cut off the stems. However, the plants are capable of regrowing multiple times in a season. Mowing spreads seeds if seed pods are present.

Disturbing Soil and Erosion

  • Minimize soil disturbance as much as possible when removing garlic mustard.
  • Regrade the soil after digging the roots. Apply mulch (when appropriate).
  • Take steps to prevent erosion as needed.
  • Replant the area to shade out new weeds.

How to Dispose of Garlic Mustard Plants

  • For plants that don’t yet have seed pods, you can compost on site or via municipal composting.
  • For plants that have developed seed pods, bag and dispose of plants in the sanitary landfill. Seeds can continue to develop after plants are pulled from the ground.
Many garbage bags full of invasive plants on trailer

Chris Evans, University of Illinois, Bugwood.org

  • If you are pulling garlic mustard with stems, flowers, and seed pods, the plants may contain mature seeds.
  • To be safe, don’t leave pulled plants on the ground or place them in compost. Discard the entire plants in thick plastic bags and transport them to a sanitary landfill.
 
B

Herbicides Triclopyr & Glyphosate

Chemical Method: Use with caution

Chameleonseye, iStock

Herbicides Triclopyr & Glyphosate

Use if Necessary

Herbicides with the active ingredients triclopyr and glyphosate effectively kill garlic mustard. Follow label instructions for best results.

Does it work?
Effective
  • Control requires several years of monitoring and treatment.
  • Use preventive measures for best results.

 

How much effort?
Moderate effort
  • Spot-spray individual plants and patches.
  • Return to the area each year and repeat as needed.

 

What's the risk?
Moderate risk
  • Herbicides come with real risks. ALWAYS read the entire label front to back. Review instructions even for brands you know.
  • Herbicides can run off your site into waterways and may harm wildlife. See How to Keep Pesticides Out of Waterways.
Possible risk of exposure or harm from chemicals
Using herbicides includes some amount of risk. The lowest risk comes with using alternative methods.

You may be exposed to an herbicide if you:

  • Get it on your skin
  • Breathe it in
  • Eat or smoke afterward without washing hands
  • Touch or eat plants that are wet with spray (you, pets, or children)
  • Bring it inside on your shoes or clothes

Follow directions closely to reduce risk.

Natural resource management professionals use herbicide products that contain triclopyr and glyphosate, individually or in a mixture, as effective chemical treatments for garlic mustard control. Look for these chemical names in the “Active Ingredients” section of product labels.

Photo of herbicide label highlighting active ingredient triclopyr

Weston Miller, Oregon State University

  • The white box on this example product label highlights active ingredient triclopyr. The text on the label states “Kills completely - stumps and roots won’t grow.”
  • Triclopyr doesn’t injure most grasses. It is a good choice for treating garlic mustard growing next to desired grasses in lawn, pasture, and meadow areas. Read the label to ensure your lawn grass will not be harmed.
Photo of herbicide label highlighting active ingredient glyphosate

Weston Miller, Oregon State University

  • The white box on the example label highlights active ingredient glyphosate. Text on the label states “Kills grass and weeks around flower beds, trees, shrubs....”
  • Glyphosate will damage most plants and grasses. Don’t let the spray contact plants you want to keep.

Herbicide Application Tips

  • Treating small garlic mustard plants and rosettes in the fall or spring is effective. A small plant is easier to kill and requires less herbicide.
  • Garlic mustard is easy to identify in the spring when it flowers, and herbicides are effective then too. However, large plants require a higher concentration and larger volume of herbicide spray.
  • Herbicide applications in the spring should be followed by looking for and hand-pulling plants that may have been missed by spray. Bag and dispose of these plants properly.
Minimize the potential impact of herbicides to bees and other pollinators. Treat garlic mustard plants before they flower. Or apply herbicides in the morning or evening when bees are less active. Avoid spraying pollinators directly. For more information, see OSU’s How to Reduce Bee Poisoning from Pesticides  
 

If Using Herbicides, Protect Yourself & Minimize Risks

Chemical Method: Use with Caution
Great blue heron in marsh

BrianLasenby, iStock

Why is it important to read herbicide labels?

  • They have detailed information on how to use the product correctly and legally.
  • They contain information on potential hazards of the product.
  • They provide instructions you should follow for poisonings and spills.
  • Following label instructions helps you to minimize the risks and maximize the benefits.

Key Herbicide Safety Tips

  • Read the entire label front to back.
  • Follow the instructions.
  • Review the instructions even for brands you know.
  • Only apply the product where the label says it may be applied.
  • Be precise in your application. More is not better.

The Label is the Law

ALWAYS read the label before using herbicide products. The label is a legal document that provides information on how to safely use the herbicide. This helps avoid harm to human health and the environment. Using an herbicide in off-label ways is illegal. It can result in legal enforcement actions.

READ THE LABEL & Follow Instructions
It has instructions to protect you and the environment.

  • Labels are different for every product and they often change over time.
  • Use a magnifying glass for small print.
  • Pay attention to CAUTION, WARNING, and DANGER statements.
  • Pay attention to the PRECAUTIONARY STATEMENTS.
  • The law states you must read and follow herbicide instructions.

Protect Yourself
Eye, skin & lung irritants

  • Wear the right protective gear. This often includes chemical-resistant gloves, safety glasses, a long-sleeve shirt, pants, socks, and shoes.
  • Mix outdoors or in a well-ventilated area.
  • Wash hands after mixing or applying, and before eating or smoking.
  • Take a shower immediately after handling herbicides.
  • Wash clothes worn while mixing or applying separately from other laundry.

Protect Children & Pets
Children and pets are at risk if they eat or touch the plants before it dries.

  • Keep them away during and after applying herbicides (read label for how long).
  • Remove toys and pet dishes from yard before applying.
  • Don’t track herbicide products into your home on shoes or clothes.

Protect Plants You Want to Keep

  • Glyphosate and similar herbicide ingredients damage both grass and broadleaf plants.
  • Minimize spraying of foliage, stems, exposed roots, or the trunks of desirable shrubs or trees to avoid harm.
  • Follow the label to avoid damaging the roots of trees and shrubs.

Avoid Wet, Windy, or Hot Weather
Use during favorable weather for best results.

  • Don’t spray when it’s raining or when rain is expected in the next 24 hours.
  • Wind causes spray to drift that can get on you and desired plants.
  • Herbicides may be less effective in hot weather if the target plants are moisture-stressed.
  • Some herbicides can turn into a vapor in hot weather and damage nearby plants.

Protect Pollinators
Many insecticides are extremely toxic to bees.

  • Honey bees and other pollinators are harmed by most insecticides.
  • Don’t spray on bees or other flying insects.
  • Don’t allow spray to contact blooming plants.

Storage & Disposal

  • Store in a secure area away from children.
  • Don’t put unused herbicide products in the trash.
  • Never pour down any drain or waterway.
  • Take unused herbicides to a hazardous waste facility.

Call  1-800-CLEANUP (1-800-253-2687) to find out where to dispose of herbicides.

For the Portland metro region in Oregon, contact Metro’s Recycling Information. Call  503-234-3000, email   or visit Metro’s website  

More about:

About Using Pesticides on School Grounds in Oregon

If using pesticides on school grounds, there are special rules in Oregon. See School Integrated Pest Management  (Oregon Department of Agriculture).

NEED HELP?

The National Pesticide Information Center (NPIC)  can answer questions about pest control chemicals.
 1-800-858-7378 or npic@ace.orst.edu  

Consider using a licensed pest or weed control company. Learn How to Hire a Pest Control Company.

Your local Extension Specialist in Oregon  and other states  can suggest other methods.

Invasive Species Alert

  • Invasives are non-native species that spread aggressively and alter the environment.
  • Controlling unwanted garlic mustard is costly.
  • Please do your part to control it on property you manage. Garlic mustard can spread beyond your property and have an adverse impact on your neighbors.

If you think you’ve found garlic mustard in the grey areas of this map, please report it to the Oregon Invasive Species Hotline at:  1-866-INVADER (1-888-468-2337) or use their online reporting form  

open Map static invasive map
Invasive species data @ 2022, iMapInvasives (NatureServe)

If you find garlic mustard in a new area (orange shows already reported cases), please report it  

View Larger Map >

Content provided by editor Weston Miller and writer J. Jeremiah Mann. Pesticide safety information edited by Kaci Buhl.

 Peer reviewed by OSU Department of Horticulture.

Photo of Weston Miller

Weston Miller

Project Founder and Content Writer

Weston Miller served as Community and Urban Horticulture faculty for Oregon State University Extension Service for Clackamas, Multnomah, and Washington Counties. Weston is an author for content for this website. He developed funding partnerships with Portland area agencies to initiate and build out the Solve Pest Problems website focused on this goals:

J. Jeremiah Mann

J. Jeremiah Mann

J. Jeremiah Mann completed a Physical Science undergraduate degree at Humboldt State University, and M.S, Ph.D focusing on plant science topics at UC Davis. He went on to work for the Natural Resources Conservation Service and in a leadership position serving a private agricultural technology company. He currently lives in Sacramento California where he consults on pest and property management topics.

Photo of Kaci Buhl

Kaci Buhl

At the state level, I lead the Pesticide Safety Education Program (PSEP). The program hosts live recertification events around the state, serving over 1,000 licensed pesticide applicators each year. We also produce web-based training modules and license-preparation study manuals. Special training for unlicensed pesticide applicators is also available through a grant from the USDA Specialty Crop Block Grant Program. The PSEP at OSU works closely with the Oregon Department of Agriculture's Pesticides Division.