Alliaria petiolata (M. Bieb.) Cavara & Grande

Garlic Mustard


CC = *
CW = 3
MOC = 36

© DETenaglia

Family - Brassicaceae

Habit - Biennial forb.

Stems - To +1m tall, herbaceous, single or multiple from thick taproot (with a radishlike aroma when crushed or bruised), erect, branching above, pubescent at very base, glabrous and glaucous above.

Alliaria_petiolata_upper_stem.jpg Upper stem.

© DETenaglia

Alliaria_petiolata_lower_stem.jpg Lower stem.

© DETenaglia

Leaves - Alternate, glabrous above, sparsely pubescent below. Basal leaves reniform, crenate or sinuate, petiolate, to 10 cm broad, 8 cm long. Petiole to 15 cm long, with single longitudinal groove, groove ciliate on margins. Cauline leaves gradually reduced upwards, cordate to sagittate, sinuate to coarsely toothed.

Alliaria_basal_leaf.jpg Lower cauline leaf.

© DETenaglia

Alliaria_stem_leaf.jpg Upper cauline leaf.

© DETenaglia

Inflorescences - Terminal racemes, greatly elongating in fruit.

Alliaria_petiolata_inflorescence2.jpg Inflorescence.

© SRTurner

Flowers - Petals 4, white, glabrous, clawed (the claw to 2 mm long), 6-7 mm long, 3 mm broad at apex. Stamens 6. Filaments to 3 mm long, glabrous, white. Anthers yellow, 1 mm long. Ovary green, 4-angled, 3 mm long, glabrous. Style very short. Sepals 4, whitish with light green tips, 3-4 mm long, 1-2 mm broad, linear to subulate. Pedicels to 4 mm long, glabrous.

Alliaria_petiolata_flower.jpg Flower.

© DETenaglia

Fruits - To 5 cm long, 4-angled, glabrous, on thick stalk to 6 mm long, erect and parallel to stem, many seeded, style persistent as a short beak. Fruit stalks at right angles to stem.

Flowering - April - May.

Habitat - Low woods, slopes, streambanks, roadsides, railroads.

Origin - Native to Europe.

Lookalikes - None close. Leaves can resemble those of Glechoma hederacea and Asarum canadense.

Other info. - This plant is infamous as a noxious invasive of moist, shaded areas. It is particularly troublesome in northern areas of the U.S., but rare or absent in much of the southern U.S., and probably less of a problem in Missouri than in the northern regions. Once established, it is difficult to eradicate, having self-compatible flowers and seeds which remain viable in the soil bank for many years. Conventional wisdom asserts that seeds will continue to mature on plants which have been uprooted at an immature stage; thus collected plant material should be burned or removed from the area.

The plant was a deliberate introduction to North America, having a long European tradition of use as a potherb, salad green, garlic substitute, and source of seed oil. The leaves are edible, with a flavor reminiscent of garlic and radish. It has also been used medicinally. The flowers are fairly showy and the plant is visually attractive but it should not be spread.

Photographs taken at Eagle Bluffs Conservation Area, Boone County, MO., 4-11-04 (DETenaglia); also near St. Albans, Franklin County, MO, 4-6-2010 (SRTurner).