As an invasive plant, when this species is introduced to a new location, it thrives and spreads into undisturbed plant communities, like ours here at the museum. Garlic Mustard is one of the oldest spices to be used in European cooking and was brought to North America in the 1860s. It was often used as a flavouring agent for salads and sauces, and was also once used as a medicine to heal wounds. Its name is Alliaria petiolata, but is commonly known as Garlic Mustard, because of the garlic smell that is emitted when the leaves are crushed and the fact that it was used to flavour sauces, such as mustards for fish and other meat. It has also been called Jack-by-the-Hedge, Sauce-alone, Penny Hedge and Poor Man's Mustard.
I am sure that it was quite tasty to the settlers, however now this weed is considered to be noxious, and because its natural predators are back in Britain where it came from, it has more of a chance to spread here with so little threat to its survival. It can be controlled by pulling it at the root or mowing, but tends to be abundant among the plants on our forest floors where it is difficult to eliminate, out-competing the native plants already there.
Stay tuned for more fun facts about the plants and animals of this area next week!