Pulling garlic mustard will help control the invasive weed at Land Conservancy nature preserves

Eliminating this invasive weed can help allows a wider diversity of spring plants to prosper. Can you take the garlic-mustard pulling challenge?
Southwest Michigan Land Conservancy (SWMLC) invites visitors to help nature by joining in self-guided garlic mustard pulling at eight SWMLC nature preserves. 

A garlic mustard pulling challenge has been extended through Monday, May 25 after rain washed out a prime weed-pulling day last weekend. Five anonymous donors are joining together to donate $7 to SWMLC for every large rubbish bag of garlic mustard pulled from an SWMLC preserve. A link to the land conservancy's web page for the challenge can be found here.

Due to restrictions caused by the pandemic, SWMLC canceled its traditional springtime volunteer activities, including the garlic-mustard pulls that help keep this invasive plant from taking over woodland habitats in its preserves.

Garlic mustard is commonly found in woodland habitats in North America and can advance across the forest floor at a rate of 20 feet per year. A single garlic mustard plant can produce up to 350 to 7,000 seeds depending on the size of the plant, and these seeds can stay viable in the ground for up to 10 years. And garlic mustard is so aggressive that it generally creates a very low species diversity in these environments. 

A guide on how to identify and pull garlic mustard weeds.

Garlic mustard is identified by its rounded, heart-shaped or triangular leaves with scalloped edges, and its pungent, garlicky smell. The flowers are white with four petals, and usually appear sometime between April and June.

It is easy to pull – just find the base of the plant, wiggle it around in the dirt to loosen it up, then pull the whole thing out, roots and all. Because the seeds will continue to mature and disperse even from pulled plants the SWMLC recommends that you either twist the plant to separate the roots from the stems and leaves and leave it in a small pile beside the trail or bring your own bag, fill it up, and dispose of it at home.

Volunteers can pull garlic mustard in a self-guided manner at any of SWMLC’s nature preserves. SWMLC has posted signage and instructions at: Bow in the Clouds Preserve in Kalamazoo, Chipman Preserve in Galesburg, Wolf Tree Nature Trails in Oshtemo, Portman Nature Preserve in Mattawan/Paw Paw, Black River Preserve in South Haven, Spirit Springs Preserve in Marcellus, Corey Lake North Bay Preserve near Three Rivers, and Kesling Nature Preserve in Three Oaks in Berrien County.

Reportedly, the most help is needed at Chipman Preserve, Portman Nature Preserve, and Spirit Springs Sanctuary.

Every bag of garlic mustard pulled helps restore the promise of thriving native southwest Michigan woodland species at SWMLC nature preserves, say SWMLC officials. Please be sure to practice safe and responsible social distancing while at SWMLC preserves, and keep at least 6 feet away from anyone not living in your household. SWMLC’s social distancing guidelines are posted at their public preserves and on their website at swmlc.org.

Youngsters pull garlic at a Southwest Michigan Land Conservancy preserve.
“Eliminating this invasive plant allows a wider diversity of spring plants to prosper, providing the food and nutrients that pollinating insects and other creatures need and are adapted to use,” says SWMLC Stewardship Specialist Dave Brown. “We are asking for the public’s support this year given the restrictions on group workdays so that we can maintain healthy nature preserves with high-quality biodiverse wildlife habitat for everyone to enjoy,” he adds. “If you’re willing to lend a hand while you’re taking your nature walk, we would really appreciate your help.”


For more information, and complete instructions on pulling garlic mustard, please visit SWMLC’s website.