Spring and early summer means more and more folks out in force in Northeast Iowa woods and parks. But this year, folks out for recreation are being encouraged to gather and take home more than just memories or wild flowers.
When you head off into nature, take along a large garbage bag as well as your other supplies. The recent favorable weather conditions have been ideal for outdoor activity, but they also favor the growth of the invasive garlic mustard plant. Park rangers are asking Northeast Iowans to pull up any garlic mustard plants they come across before they have chance to set their seeds.
Garlic mustard is a highly invasive, noxious species that smothers native flora on the forest floor and blocks out valuable sunlight. Wildlife won’t eat the plant as it tastes foul, so it just continues to spread unchecked. And it’s not just plants that are affected by the garlic mustard weed. Many species of butterfly lay their eggs on specific native plants as food for their larvae when they hatch. As the plants disappear, so do the butterflies.
There’s a knack to removing the plants. If you just pull at them, they’ll snap off and leave the root behind. You need to gently wiggle the plant out of the ground, roots and all. Seasonal rain will loosen the soil around the plants so that you can pull them out more easily. The important thing is to pull the plants up before they set their seeds down, so that passing animals don’t pick them up on their fur and spread the plants further afield.
Enjoy your wooded adventures this summer, but keep an eye open for the garlic mustard plant and remove as many as you can find. Not only will you be getting a valuable nature boost, you’ll be helping to protect the native species of Northeast Iowa too!
Image source: nyis.info