Garlic mustard

Encyclopedia Article

Garlic mustard             Alliaria petiolata (Bieb) Cavara & Grande

Family:   Brassicaceae (Mustard family)                
Life cycle:   
Native status:  Introduced
Habitat:   Woodlands                                                    

General description:  First year plants are a rosette of 3 to 4 round, scallop edged leaves.  In second year the plant reaches height of 2 to 3 feet.  Leaves on bolting stems are triangular with large teeth.  Flowers are white and seed capsules are 1 to 2.5 in long.

Key ID traits:  Garlicky odor of crushed leaves; deep veins on coarsely teethed leaves. 

Similar species: The leaves of rosettes resemble ground ivy in shape, but are larger and develop from a rosette whereas ground ivy has opposite leaves on creeping stems (stolons).

Miscellaneous:   Introduced to North America in the 1860s as a culinary herb.  Now a significant problem in woodlands of eastern United States.  It has been spreading throughout Iowa since the 1980s

Garlic mustard rosette with circular leaves, scalloped leaf margins, and deep veins.

Flowering plant with triangular leaves.

Garlic mustard flowers have four petals, as do other members of the Brassica family.


Mature garlic mustard covering forest floor.  Production of allelopathic chemicals allows this weed to eliminate the native plants in infested areas.