Alliaria petiolata

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Garlic mustard
Alliaria petiolata marais-belloy-sur-somme 80 26042007 3.jpg
Scientific classification
Kingdom: Plantae
(unranked): Angiosperms
(unranked): Eudicots
(unranked): Rosids
Order: Brassicales
Family: Brassicaceae
Genus: Alliaria
Species: A. petiolata
Binomial name
Alliaria petiolata
(M.Bieb.) Cavara & Grande

Alliaria petiolata is a biennial flowering plant in the Mustard family, Brassicaceae. It is native to Europe, western and central Asia, and northwestern Africa, from Morocco, Iberia and the British Isles, north to northern Scandinavia,[1] and east to northern Pakistan and western China (Xinjiang).[citation needed]

In the first year of growth, plants form clumps of round shaped, slightly wrinkled leaves, that when crushed smell like garlic. The next year plants flower in spring, producing cross shaped white flowers in dense clusters. As the flowering stems bloom they elongate into a spike-like shape. When blooming is complete, plants produce upright fruits that release seeds in mid-summer. Plants are often found growing along the margins of hedges, giving rise to the old British folk name of Jack-by-the-hedge. Other common names include Garlic Mustard,[2] garlic root, hedge garlic, sauce-alone, Jack-in-the-bush, penny hedge and poor man's mustard. The genus name Alliaria, "resembling Allium", refers to the garlic-like odour of the crushed foliage.

All parts of the plant, including the roots, give off a strong odor. In 17th century Britain, it was recommended as a flavoring for salt fish. It can also be made into a sauce for eating with roast lamb or salad.[3] Early European settlers brought the herb to the New World to use as a garlic type flavoring, and as a good source of vitamins A and C. Its traditional medicinal purposes include use as a diuretic.[4] The herb was also planted as a form of erosion control.[5]

The plant is classified as an invasive species in North America. Since being brought to the United States by settlers, it has naturalized and expanded its range to include most of the Northeast and Midwest, as well as southeastern Canada. It is one of the few invasive herbaceous species able to dominate the understory of North American forests and has thus reduced the biodiversity of many areas.[6]


It is an herbaceous biennial plant growing from a deeply growing, thin, white taproot that is scented like horseradish. In the first year, plants appear as a rosette of green leaves close to the ground; these rosettes remain green through the winter and develop into mature flowering plants the following spring. Second year plants grow from 30–100 cm (12–39 in) tall and rarely to 130 cm (51 in). The leaves are stalked, triangular to heart-shaped, 10–15 cm (3.9–5.9 in) long (of which about half being the petiole) and 5–9 cm (2.0–3.5 in) broad, with a coarsely toothed margin. The flowers are produced in spring and summer in button-like clusters. Each small flower has four white petals 4–8 mm (0.2–0.3 in) long and 2–3 mm (0.08–0.12 in) broad, arranged in a cross shape. The fruit is an erect, slender, four-sided pod 4–5.5 cm (1.6–2.2 in) long,[7] called a silique, green maturing pale grey-brown, containing two rows of small shiny black seeds which are released when the pod splits open. A single plant can produce hundreds of seeds, which scatter as much as several meters from the parent plant.

Depending upon conditions, garlic mustard flowers either self-fertilize or are cross-pollinated by a variety of insects. Self-fertilized seeds are genetically identical to the parent plant, enhancing its ability to colonize an area where that genotype is suited to thrive.[8]

Close-up of Garlic Mustard flowers
Fruits and seeds

Cultivation and uses[edit]

Garlic mustard is one of the oldest discovered spices to be used in cooking in Europe. Evidence of its use has been found from archeological remains found in the Baltic, dating back to 4100-3750 B.C.E.[9]

The chopped leaves are used for flavoring in salads and sauces such as pesto, and sometimes the flowers and fruit are included as well. These are best when young, and provide a mild flavor of both garlic and mustard. The seeds are sometimes used to season food directly in France.[4] Garlic mustard was once used medicinally[10] as a disinfectant or diuretic, and was sometimes used to heal wounds.[4]

Sixty nine insect herbivores and seven fungi are associated with garlic mustard in Europe. The most important groups of natural enemies associated with garlic mustard were weevils (particularly the genus Ceutorhynchus), leaf beetles, butterflies, and moths, including the larvae of some moth species such as the Garden Carpet moth.[6]

The small white flowers have a rather unpleasant aroma which attracts midges and hoverflies, although the flowers usually pollinate themselves. In June the pale green caterpillar of the orange tip butterfly (Anthocharis cardamines) can be found feeding on the long green seed-pods from which it can hardly be distinguished.[3]

In North America, the plant offers no known wildlife benefits and is toxic to larvae of certain rarer butterfly species (e.g. Pieris oleracea and Pieris virginiensis) that lay eggs on the plants, as it is related to native mustards but creates chemicals that they are not adapted to.[11][12] Native species, including two stem-mining weevils, a stem-mining fly, a leaf-mining fly, a scale insect, two fungi, and aphids (taxonomic identification for all species is pending) were found attacking garlic mustard in North America. However, their attacks were of little consequence to plant performance or reproduction of garlic mustard.[6]

As an invasive species[edit]

Garlic mustard was introduced to North America as a culinary herb in the 1860s and is an invasive species across much of that continent.[13][14][15] It is toxic or unpalatable to many native herbivores, as well as to some native lepidoptera.[16][17][18][19] Biological control is the most promising control method.[20][21][22][21][23][24] There are no effective native predators in North America.[25] Control may be possible using predatory weevils.[26][27][26][28][29][21] Chemical control is possible but unlikely to eradicate the plant given the likelihood of continual reintroduction from areas where it survives.[30][30][29][31] Of the 76 natural enemies garlic mustard has in its native range, several have been tested for use as potential biological control agents, but none had been approved for use by May 2017.[26] The monophagous weevil C. scrobicollis was nominated for approval in 2012 but blocked by the USDA Technical Advisory Group, TAG, group. It had seemed likely that TAG would approve its introduction in 2004 but it was also blocked then.[32] It was also petitioned to TAG for approval in 2008, 2011, 2014, and 2016.[33]


  1. ^ "Flora Europaea". Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh. 
  2. ^ "BSBI List 2007". Botanical Society of Britain and Ireland. Archived from the original (xls) on 25 January 2015. Retrieved 2014-10-17. 
  3. ^ a b Reader's Digest Nature Lover's Library, Field Guide to the Wildflowers of Britain, Editor Michael W. Davison, Art Editor Neal V. Martin, The Reader's Digest Association Limited, 11 Westferry Circus, Canary Wharf, London E144HE, Reprint 2001, ISBN 0 276 42506 5
  4. ^ a b c Gualtiero Simonetti (1990). Stanley Schuler, ed. Simon & Schuster's Guide to Herbs and Spices. Simon & Schuster, Inc. ISBN 0-671-73489-X. 
  5. ^ Kleinstein, Debby. "Introduced Species Summary Project Garlic Mustard (Alliaria petiolata)". Retrieved 19 May 2015. 
  6. ^ a b c Van Driesche, R. "Garlic Mustard". Retrieved 19 May 2015. 
  7. ^ "Invader of the Month - Garlic Mustard - Alliaria petiolata" (PDF). Retrieved 2009-05-21. 
  8. ^ PCA Alien Plant Working Group - Garlic Mustard (Alliaria petiolata)
  9. ^ Saul, Hayley; Madella M; Fischer A; Glykou A; Hartz S; et al. (21 August 2013). "Phytoliths in Pottery Reveal the Use of Spice in European Prehistoric Cuisine". Plos One. PLOS. 8 (8): e70583. Bibcode:2013PLoSO...870583S. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0070583. ISSN 1932-6203. PMC 3749173Freely accessible. PMID 23990910. Retrieved 22 August 2013. 
  10. ^ "Plants For A Future: Database Search Results". Retrieved 2009-05-16. 
  11. ^ Pest Management Invasive Plant Control - Garlic Mustard (Alliara petiolata) USDA NRCS Conservation Practice Job Sheet MN-797
  12. ^ Davis, S., 2015. Evaluating threats to the rare butterfly, Pieris virginiensis. Wright State University.!etd.send_file?accession=wright1431882480&disposition=inline
  13. ^; PLANTS Profile for Alliaria petiolata (garlic mustard) | USDA PLANTS]
  14. ^ Minnesota Department of Natural Resources website
  15. ^ Luken, James O., and John W. Thieret. 1997. Assessment and management of plant invasions. Springer series on environmental management. New York: Springer. ISBN 978-0-387-94809-6 Page 117.
  16. ^ Haribal, Meena; Renwick, J.Alan A (1998). "Isovitexin 6"-O-β-d-glucopyranoside: A feeding deterrent to Pieris napi oleracea from Alliaria petiolata". Phytochemistry. 47 (7): 1237. doi:10.1016/S0031-9422(97)00740-1. 
  17. ^ Daxenbichler, ME; Spencer, GF; Carlson, DG; Rose, GB; Brinker, AM; Powell, RG (1991). "Glucosinolate composition of seeds from297 species of wild plants". Phytochemistry. 30 (8): 2623–2638. doi:10.1016/0031-9422(91)85112-d. 
  18. ^ Cipollini, D (2002). "Variation in the expression of chemical defenses in Alliaria petiolata (Brassicaceae) in the field and common garden". American Journal of Botany. 89 (9): 1422–1430. doi:10.3732/ajb.89.9.1422. 
  19. ^ Rodgers, Vikki L.; Benjamin E. Wolfe, Leland K. Werden1 and Adrien C. Finzi (2008). "The invasive species Alliaria petiolata (garlic mustard) increases soil nutrient availability in northern hardwood-conifer forests". Oecologia. 157 (3): 459–471. Bibcode:2008Oecol.157..459R. doi:10.1007/s00442-008-1089-8. PMID 18612654. 
  20. ^ Eubanks, HM.D., Hoffmann, J.H., Lewis, E.E., Liu, J., Melnick, R., Michaud, J.P., Ode, P., Pell, J.K., 2017. Biological Control Journal. Elsevier.
  21. ^ a b c Becker, R., Gerber E., Hinz H., Katovich E., Panke B., Reardon R., Renz R., Van Riper L., 2013. Biology and Biological Control of Garlic Mustard. The Forest Technology Enterprise Team.
  22. ^ UF IFAS, 2017. Biological Control. University of Florida.
  23. ^ Driesche, F.V.; Blossey, B.; Hoodle, M.; Lyon, S.; Reardon, R., 2010. Biological Control of Invasive Plants in the Eastern United States. USDA Forest Service. Forest Health Technology Enterprise Team.
  24. ^ Davis, Adam. 2009. Munching on Garlic Mustard - A New Weevil in the Works. United States Department of Agriculture - AgResearch Magazine.
  25. ^ Blossy, B., Ode, P., Pell, J.K., 1999. Development of Biological Control for Garlic Mustard. Cornell University.
  26. ^ a b c Becker, R., 2017. Implementing Biological Control of Garlic Mustard - Environment and Natural Resources Trust Fund 2017 RFP.
  27. ^ Katovich, J., Gerber, E., Hinz H., Skinner, L., Ragsdale, D., Becker, R., 2007. The Garlic Mustard Biocontrol Story - Past, Present and Future.
  28. ^ Orion T., 2015. Beyond the War on Invasive Species - A Permaculture Approach to Ecosystem Restoration.
  29. ^ a b Reardon, R., 2012. Garlic Mustard Biological Control — Forest Health Technology Enterprise Team.
  30. ^ a b Panke B., Renz M., 2012. Management of invasive plants in Wisconsin: Garlic mustard. University of Wisconsin-Extension Team Horticulture.
  31. ^ Becker, R., Gerber E., Hinz H., Katovich E., Panke B., Reardon R., Renz R., Van Riper L., 2013. Biology and Biological Control of Garlic Mustard Manual. The Forest Technology Enterprise Team.
  32. ^ Landis, Doug. "Management Options". Integrated Pest Management. Michigan State University. Retrieved 10 September 2017. 
  33. ^ Reardon, Richard. "FHTET Biological Control Program — Sponsored Projects" (PDF). FHTET Biological Control Program. USDA Forest Service. Retrieved 10 September 2017. 

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