Windsor Country Forester Jon Bouton picks garlic mustard plants from a growing patch behind the Hartford town offices. It's just one of many spots throughout the region that have become infested with the invasive plant.
"And when it takes over an area, that will keep other plants from growing up through it. It will just form a dense carpet. The other thing it does is it exudes some chemical from its root system that will actually damage some of the fungi that are in the soil," Bouton said.
It's no coincidence the name comes from the plant's distinctive smell. Bouton said it was likely brought over from Europe in the 1800's as an herb used for cooking. But unlike Europe and Asia, in North America, the plant has no natural predators. "Over there they have a lot of natural enemies. Over here they don't have any. Deer won't even eat this stuff," Bouton said.
Officials in the Upper Valley concerned about the environment are going on the offensive. They are taking the fight right to the plant with a series of plant pulling parties. "We are going to be asking volunteers to come joins us and pull and bag garlic mustard," said Sara Cavin with the Upper Valley Land Trust.
"Since the land trust is more of a regional partner, rather than just a town-focused one, we have been trying to draw people in and get the word spread so people know how to identify the plant and how to deal with it," Cavin said.
A plant that has the potential to alter the proper growth of an entire forest.
"This can help keep young forests from getting started. So yes, over a period of 100 years or so, it would definitely change very much the way the forest is," Bouton said.
But concerned community members are trying to uproot that possibility, nipping the problem in the bud.
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