There’s this pretty plant I’ve been finding out in the woods over the last couple of years, and I’ve always thought it quite pretty. It has heart-shaped leaves, a tall stem, and a cluster of tiny white flowers which bend toward the sun — heliotropic, isn’t that what it’s called? I’ve never been able to find out what they were, though.
Today, I found out. While searching the New York Times website, I found a brief article about an invasive species called garlic mustard. The accompanying photograph was my pretty white wildflower that wasn’t in any of the books.
Garlic mustard turns out to be a fairly aggressive species that doesn’t rely on the normal mycorrhizal fungi in the soil to fix nitrates and absorb nutrients. This is true of most mustard-family plants, apparently. However, garlic mustard attacks the mycorrhizal fungi that are specifically necessary to northeastern hardwood forests.
The National Park Service’s website (http://www.nps.gov/plants/alien/fact/alpe1.htm) recommends hand-removal for at least five years in order to eliminate an infestation before the seed takes root.
I need to confirm this plant identification, and then see about setting Outdoor adventures to pulling the plants out of our woods.
I’m worried though. There’s A LOT of it.