Garlic mustard is leafy, tall, and slender, producing button-topped clusters of white petals. 

Its sudden flowering has spruced up the brown leaf-strewn hill. That’s why it suddenly stands out in a list of plants to be vigilant about. As an “invasive species,” garlic mustard spreads aggressively, often in already compromised areas, squeezing out native diversity by taking up nutrients, space, and sun while distracting insects (like the hoverfly) from pollinating native plants.  Apparently it even secretes a chemical into the soil to kill fungi that other plants require.  Then it seeds voluminously in the second year of a biennial life-cycle, just after flowering.  Seeds will hitch a ride on hair or hide to spread. And the plant is usually threatened only by other invasive species.

That’s where I come in.  Knowledge, even a little, is responsibility, right?  One by one, the garlic mustard is coming up at the root. 

But a little knowledge can be a dangerous thing, too. People brought garlic mustard from Europe to America in the 1860s. At the time, it was a useful medicinal herb and seasoning, a nice complement to the garden.  One hundred fifty years later, it is invasive and insidious. States across the country scramble to control garlic mustard before it can dominate native populations.  

Medicine, menace.  Seasoning, spoiler. Planter, supplanter.  

To stand in the wilding spawn of a garlic mustard garden:

what an enduring and delicate balance of knowing and not. 

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