After a winter filled with all sorts of strange weather, it seems like spring is finally here. While we all have different spring activities we are looking forward to, one big activity I’m working on in Minnetonka is removing garlic mustard – lots and lots of garlic mustard.
So why garlic mustard? Great question, but first some background. Recently the City of Minnetonka acquired a 30-acre parcel from a woman named Ann Cullen Smith to be preserved in perpetuity for the benefit of the whole community. Ms. Smith had lived on the plot for 78 years which means it’s one of the biggest undeveloped parcels of land in the city.
The City of Minnetonka is working on restoring the Ann Cullen Smith Property to the oak dominated forest and brushland it once was. And while this would make it a great location for hiking and birdwatching it will need a lot of work to get there because right now it is chock full of invasive plants like buckthorn and garlic mustard.
So back to the question: why garlic mustard? Garlic mustard (alliaria petiolate is the scientific name) is an invasive plant from Europe and Asia that, unfortunately, can be quite destructive here in Minnesota. It only takes a few seeds to start growing and once it gets a hold it will often start spreading quickly resulting in shading out native plants and preventing almost anything else from growing in areas of large scale infestation. To make matters worse it develops seeds early in the summer, and just one plant can produce thousands of seeds that can remain fertile for up to 10 years! In other words, if you want to get rid of it you have to do it in the spring or honestly, you’ll probably spread the seeds and make the infestation worse.
The good news is I’ve been working with a group of dedicated volunteers from the Minnetonka community to organize garlic mustard pulls during May and June. We’ve been able to do two removal events so far which has cleared several areas of lighter infestation on the property.
This is all part of a multi-year restoration strategy being planned by the city that will eventually including removing the buckthorn on the property as well and finally planting native plants to restore it to what it once looked like. This will hopefully result in the creation of a new great destination for hiking, bird watching, and a great example of what native Minnesota habitat once was like, all while being just a stone’s throw away from Interstate 494!
So if you’re interested in helping us improve the Ann Cullen Smith property, or would like to learn about how to organize similar restoration events in your own community please get in touch with me at 612.767.1571 or JohnA@ConservationMinnesota.org.