Eastern Forest Threat Center - Garlic Mustard

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Garlic mustard with spring flowers

Garlic mustard with spring flowers

Chris Evans, River to River CWMA, Bugwood.org

Garlic Mustard
Alliaria petiolata

Garlic mustard was introduced into the U.S. from Europe in the 1800s. It was originally cultivated for medicinal use.

Keywords: Brassicaceae, biennial, herb, garlic odor, coarsely toothed leaves, buttonlike flower clusters, white cross-shaped flowers, seedpods

Distribution Map Distribution Source Image

Threat Description

Garlic mustard is a cool season biennial herb in the mustard family with stalked, triangular to heart-shaped, coarsely toothed leaves that give off a garlic odor when crushed. First-year plants appear as rosettes of green leaves close to the ground that remain green through winter and develop into mature flowering plants the following spring. Plants reach from 2 - 3½ ft. in height and produce buttonlike clusters of small, white, cross-shaped flowers. In May, seeds are produced in erect, slender pods and become shiny black when mature. By late June, most plants have died and are recognizable only by the erect stalks of dry, pale brown seedpods that remain through summer. Though invasive under a wide range of light and soil conditions, garlic mustard is associated with calcareous soils and does not tolerate high acidity. It frequently occurs in moist, shaded soil of river floodplains, forests, roadsides, and trail edges. Disturbed areas are most susceptible to rapid invasion and dominance. It out-competes native plants by aggressively monopolizing light, moisture, nutrients, soil, and space, and therefore poses a severe threat to native plants and animals in forest communities.