Garlic-Mustard

Today I finally got around to my annual garlic mustard pull in the woods behind my house. Some years it lasts for hours a day and for weeks on end. In other years, I get the job done in a couple of days. Last year, I recruited students and a teacher from a Grade 6 class that was doing research on invasive species. The teacher and one student showed up on time – the rest showed up late, but in time for pop and hotdogs. Good help is hard to find.

You might say that pulling garlic mustard is an obsessive compulsion of mine. Why else would I sacrifice my valuable time that I could have spent in countless fun ways. The compulsion arises from knowledge about what garlic mustard does to those precious trees. That forest, by the way, is a key reason why I live here.

The story of garlic mustard and the trees has everything to do with a mysterious and benevolent organism in the soil: mycorrhizal fungus. Hardwood trees and the fungus have a vital symbiotic relationship. The trees pump liquid carbon into the soil, which feeds the fungus. The fungus breaks down the minerals and nutrients in the soil and provides them to the trees. Without the  fungus, the trees starve.

Garlic mustard kills the fungus and starves the hardwood trees, like the maple and ash in the forest behind my home. “Maples, ashes and other hardwood trees are being harmed by an invasive weed that indirectly slows their growth to about one-tenth the normal speed, scientists say.”

So, whose job is it to battle destructive garlic mustard? If you are like me, you feel responsible for protecting the natural environment. You feel empowered when you make a positive impact. You even find ways to use the results of your labor. Did I mention that garlic mustard is delicious?

Sustainability, ecological wisdom, participatory democracy, frugality… if all of these values hit a chord with you, you just might be Green.

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