I recently attended Operation Garlic Mustard Dawn, an event hosted by the Aspetuck Land Trust (ALT) to raise awareness of invasive plants. Catchy name. In this age of 24/7 noise, you need to do something to get people’s attention. News12, Hersam-Acorn newspapers and Connecticut Gardener were invited.
The Aspetuck Land Trust, a non-profit, manages 1,723 acres in Easton, Fairfield, Weston and Westport.
The event focused on two specific invasives: Japanese Barberry (Berberis thunbergii) and Garlic Mustard (Alliaria petiolata). Volunteers pulled garlic mustard and Curt Naser demonstrated a professional, two-part approach to barberry removal. Naser cut the barberry near ground level with a brush saw and burned the remaining plant with a flame weeder. Naser is trained in the procedure, which took place on a rainy day at the LeGallienne Bird Sanctuary in Weston.
Garlic mustard leaves give off a strong garlic odor when crushed and the spikes with white flowers are easy to spot. First-year growth is a basal rosette. Flowers appear in the second year. The plant is allelopathic and produces chemicals that inhibit the mycorrhizal fungi that many plants require for optimal growth. It can also fool some butterflies into laying eggs because of its similarity to native species.
Japanese Barberry is a public health concern because barberry infested forests are more likely to harbor ticks that carry the Lyme disease pathogen, Borrelia burgdorferi. Lyme disease is a serious public health problem in Connecticut.
A press release describes the project as “a pilot program aimed at awakening public understanding of the risks posed to conserved areas and homeowner property alike by invasive plant species.”
ALT has developed a three-prong plan:
• Identification and risk assessment
• Responsible plant eradication
• Habitat restoration
“Spring is the best time to start,” said Lisa Brodlie, ALT vice president and chair of its Land Management Committee. “Plants are young and easy to identify and remove.” Procedures get more complicated once the plants produce seed.
ALT is looking to partner with volunteers, like-minded groups and municipalities. As the project progresses, the plan is to create a database and add information on the management of invasives to its website, www.aspetucklandtrust.org
“The social costs of invasive species to biodiversity in our ecology are enormous,” said Brodlie.
If you’d like to help, call (203) 331-1906 or email David Brant, ALT’s executive director, at firstname.lastname@example.org
-- Will Rowlands