Getting the mustard out
The Garlic Mustard Challenge
This month, local volunteers defend their title in the regional Garlic Mustard Challenge. Last spring, the Huron Arbor group beat ten others from Michigan and Indiana by pulling 102,507 pounds from public and private land. This year, they face new competition as seven more groups from four states join the fray.
Planted by European settlers as a seasoning and medicine, garlic mustard became the most prolific invasive weed in Midwestern forests, overwhelming native plants. Ann Arbor's Stewardship Network started the friendly competition five years ago as a fun way to get people involved in rooting it out. The hundreds of volunteers in the Huron Arbor group come from land conservancies, the Huron River Watershed Council, the U-M Botanical Gardens and Arboretum, the city's Natural Area Preservation unit, and county and state agencies.
How do they know how much they've pulled? At big events, volunteers throw the plants into a dump truck that is weighed. When individuals or small groups weed their own yards, neighborhood parks, or natural areas, they report the number of garbage bags filled to the Stewardship Network, which translates bags into pounds.
For first-timers, Natural Area Preservation hosts its annual Garlic Mustard Weed-Out Day on April 27 (see Events). Organizers pass around garlic mustard plants, showing off their distinctive scalloped leaves. Then it's time to get dirty and get the mustard out.
[Originally published in April, 2013.]