What Does Garlic Mustard Look Like?

Many homeowners take pride in their backyard, and have come to rely on them as a source of joy and relaxation. You spend hours each week tending to them, making sure they look their best. But this cannot be done if there are weeds making themselves at home in your lawn. So, what do you do if you see an unfamiliar weed popping up in your yard? Don’t worry – we’re here to help!

When it comes to pesky weeds, garlic mustard is one of the worst. This invasive species can take over a garden in no time, and can be difficult to get rid of. If you’re unsure what this weed looks like, this post is for you! We’ll discuss the features of garlic mustard, as well as how to get rid of it.

So, what does Garlic Mustard look like? Read on for more information.

What is Garlic Mustard?

Garlic Mustard, also known scientifically as Alliaria petiolata, is a biennial plant that belongs to the mustard family. It has been naturalized in almost every continent and climate around the globe.

This naturally Eurasian weed that was first introduced to North America in the late 1800s and has since spread throughout both continents. It was cultivated for culinary and medicinal purposes.

It is also known as jack-by-the-hedge in the United Kingdom, since it frequently grows beside hedges on the roadside or along property lines.

Where Does Garlic Mustard Grow?

Garlic mustard is a non-native invasive plant that has been discovered in almost every state in the U.S. It’s a biennial plant, meaning it has a two-year life cycle. It’s one of the few invasive species that can crowd out the understory of forests in the United States, allowing it to grow much more quickly than other weeds and reducing biodiversity considerably.

How to Identify Garlic Mustard

Here are some ways you can tell if you have Garlic Mustard growing either in your backyard or in a local forest area near you.

Visual Characteristics 

Garlic Mustard has wavy, wrinkled leaves that are somewhat triangular in form with pointed tips and roughly diamond-shaped at the base of the leaf stalk (source).

It has brilliant white flowers that grow in clusters at the top of the stems. These are most likely to blossom in the spring, but they can often be hidden by leaves, making them difficult to spot. There are four petals on each flower.

Growth Stages

In its first year of life, all garlic mustard develops are crinkly, round leaves that have a fragrance reminiscent of garlic when crushed. For this first year, Garlic Mustard plants consist of rosettes of green leaves near the soil; these rosettes remain green throughout the winter.

The plant blooms and develops into a mature flowering plant in the spring of its second year. The plant may reach up to 40 inches tall in this year, making it pretty imposing.

Other Unique Traits

As you might have have guessed, the trait most unique to garlic mustard is its smell, which is how most people identify it. You’ll be able to tell if it’s garlic mustard by the smell of it, even before it comes into view. When crushed, every portion of the plant, including its roots, emits a strong garlic scent.

However, just because it smells like garlic, this does not mean this weed is edible. Garlic Mustard is a plant native to Europe, so it is edible there, and has been used in salads and as an herb for millennia. One word of caution is that the plant is poisonous in its first year. As a result, consume it only if it has two years of age, as evidenced by the presence of white blooms on it.

If you live in North America, however, Garlic Mustard should not be eaten, as it is poisonous and can potentially pose a danger to any humans or native animal species that eat it.

Plants That Look Like Garlic Mustard

Two plants that look like Garlic Mustard are Wild Garlic and Lily-of-the-Valley. Both have white blooms and bulbs that develop in shady, moist settings. Lily-of-the-valley is a poisonous plant, like Garlic Mustard, whereas wild garlic is fully edible. The entire lily-of-the-valley plant is poisonous if ingested, and its components can induce serious health issues such as nausea and arrhythmia.

Therefore, if you come across a white flower in the wild, it’s very possible that you will end up eating a plant that is dangerous and poisonous. It can be wild Garlic, but if it’s garlic mustard, then you’ll be in trouble. If you have any questions at all, seek out a professional’s opinion; it’s safer to be cautious than sorry.

How to Get Rid of Garlic Mustard

Garlic mustard is a fast growing and faster spreading weed, and its seeds can survive for up to 12 years, with one plant able to produce thousands of seeds. Therefore, it is a fairly difficult weed to get rid of, although it is certainly possible.

Garlic mustard is vulnerable to herbicides, particularly those that have the active ingredient glyphosate in them. These weed killers can be utilized at any point in the weed’s life cycle, but they are most effective before it blooms. If you’re using an herbicide or a weed killer, early spring is when you should do it, as to not harm other plants in your garden.

The best strategy to get rid of Garlic Mustard is to hand-pull or dig it out carefully before the leaves unfurl in the spring. Pulling is most successful if you try to remove the entire root system with the leaves and flowers. Any parts of the plant that have been removed should be bagged or burned, since they may germinate.

To Sum Up

Garlic mustard is a plant that can be found throughout North America. It’s an invasive species, so it’s important to be able to identify it, as it can take over native habitats and crowd out other plants.

It can be difficult to identify at first, but once you know what to look for, it’s not too hard. There are a few key visual characteristics to look for, which we’ve outlined above. We’ve also pointed out how to distinguish this weed from others like it, and provided some tips on how to get rid of it.

We hope this blog post has helped you gain an advantage over any pesky Garlic Mustard you might have in your backyard! Thanks for reading!