By Adam Hocking
MARSHFIELD — Garlic mustard is a biennial plant and invasive species that can have serious repercussions on its surrounding environment, according to the Wisconsin DNR. Master naturalist Bridget O’Brien recently realized that the plant was growing along streams at Wildwood Park in Marshfield and has been working over the last couple weeks to do something about it.
“This stuff (garlic mustard) can just take over everything,” O’Brien said. She cited the Twin Cities as an area where the plant has had a major impact, in effect “smothering the native plants.”
She noted that garlic mustard also has an antifungal element to it. Many native plants, she said, work with fungus in the soil to prosper, and the garlic mustard jeopardizes that relationship.
While pulling a specific plant on Monday at Wildwood, O’Brien said that a single garlic mustard plant could have 3,500 seeds. She added that the plant is extremely “hardy.”
“It has great chances of spreading,” O’Brien said, adding that the plant can live five to 10 years in the ground. She has been working with one other master naturalist to pull the plants out of Wildwood, but two people is not enough to adequately address the problem, O’Brien said. Pulling the plant will only be effective for about two more weeks, O’Brien said on Monday, June 6. After that point, seeds will be released and spread.
“We’re going to need to be after it for years and years and years. That’s just the way it is. One plant gets away from you, you got another five to 10 years that you could be pulling,” O’Brien said.
O’Brien hopes that by talking about garlic mustard she can bring awareness to the destructive impact the plant can have. She advises homeowners to search their property for it and if they see it to begin removing it immediately.
“Pull it. Put a stake in where it is so that you can go back there and pull it every year,” O’Brien said.
O’Brien will be hosting a workshop at Wildwood on June 17, where people can learn about the plant, how to identify it, and, if they choose, they can pitch in and help remove it from the park. Those interested should come in through the southern entrance of Wildwood Park and Zoo, cross over the bridge, and O’Brien will be parked along the side of the access road on the way to parking for the nature trail, where the garlic mustard is concentrated. People may come to the workshop anytime between 4-7 p.m. on June 17 and stay as long as they wish.
For more information on garlic mustard or the upcoming workshop, Bridget O’Brien can be reached at 715-387-8897.