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Garlic Mustard, Be Wary

Photo Credit: Sean James
May 14, 2017 – Milton, Canada: Garlic Mustard plant. Photos by Sean James.


Do you have this pretty white flower in your garden? Beware. It’ll slowly kill your other plants–moving into nature and affecting our wildflowers and forests. From a garden-science-nerd (yep, that’s me!) point of view, it’s almost nifty.

There are beneficial fungi that work with plant roots to help them soak up water, cooling themselves and bringing up nutrients. Garlic mustard releases a fungicide into the soil, killing that friendly fungus (mycorrhizae) and hurting the nearby plants. This fungicide can hang on in the soil for SEVEN years after the weed is removed.

On top of that, it drops hundreds of seeds which germinate easily and can wait for years to germinate, making control even more difficult.

How to identify it? Each floret has four petals, pure white. The leaves are heavily textured and smell like garlic when crushed. Look at the leaves in the attached photos. They have large teeth.

Short version? Remove it as soon as you see it and keep your eyes peeled for a few years.

On the bright side, you can eat it! It’s delicious with basil as a pesto–however, never eat any plant until you’ve verified its identity with an expert.

Want to learn more about this and other invasive weeds? Check out the Ontario Invasive Plants website. Explore around while you’re there. There’s lots to learn.


Sean James is Milton’s Gardener: a horticultural expert, a designer, a gardener, an ecologist and teacher. One garden at a time, Sean designs and plants eco-compatible, efficient, aesthetic, symbiotic gardens using philosophies and practices that are rooted in promoting native botanicals, edibles and responsible species.