The Effects of Invasive Garlic Mustard

By Alyssa Kobylarek, MNA intern

Garlic mustard flowers appear after the second year. Photo via MNA archives.

Garlic mustard flowers appear after the second year. Photo via MNA archives.

At first glance, garlic mustard looks like any other native flower. It has tiny, white flowers that sit atop a bed of green leaves along the forest floor. Passersby may not realize that this plant is one of the worst invaders of forests in the American Northeast and Midwest that was brought to America for food and medicinal uses from Europe and Asia in the 1800s.

Garlic mustard is an invasive herb that has spread throughout much of the United States over the past century. It can be identified as young plants by the garlic odor that is released when the leaves are crushed. The flowers develop on an unbranched stalk and they have four small white petals in a symmetrical arrangement.

Garlic mustard is usually found in undergrowth of disturbed woodlots and forest edges. It spreads fast and easily dominates the undergrowth of some forests, pushing native plants back and reducing diversity among native species. Garlic mustard can form in a dense blanket on the understory. This can kill off native plants that grow there because it controls the light, water and nutrients that are available. Plants most affected by garlic mustard are herbaceous species that grow in similar moist soil in the spring and early summer.

Garlic Mustard at Rizor Nature Sanctuary. Photo by Natalie Kent- Norkowski

Garlic mustard grows in dense clusters and has the potential to cover the forest floor. Photo via MNA archives.

Garlic mustard has been tied to the decrease in native herbaceous species in forested areas. It also releases chemicals that hinder the growth of other plant species and inhibits the growth of grasses and herbs. Other areas of the ecosystem could be affected due to the change in the vegetation. Altering the plant diversity can change leaf litter availability for creatures that survive in them, insects could be affected due to the loss in diversity of egg-laying substrate and plants, and it could prevent tree seedlings from growing.

Deer and other herbivores eat the garlic mustard, but they only remove about two percent of the leaf area. Manual removal of the plant is an effective method for eliminating the species and preventing it from spreading. Many volunteer days at MNA this spring are dedicated to helping remove and prevent garlic mustard in MNA sanctuaries. Take a look at some upcoming dates to get involved and visit for more dates and information!

  • Wednesday, April 30: Join MNA at the Riley-Shurte Nature Sanctuary (Cass County, near Cassopolis) to help keep the woods free of garlic mustard.
  • Friday, May 2: Help pull garlic mustard in the forest at Lyle and Mary Rizor Nature Sanctuary (Livingston County, near Hartland).
  • Saturday, May 3: Join volunteers to pull garlic mustard in the wooded paradise at Powell Memorial Nature Sanctuary (Lenawee County, near Hudson).
  • Monday, May 5: MNA will host a garlic mustard pull at the popular Dowagiac Woods Nature Sanctuary (Cass County, near Dowagiac).
  • Monday, May 5: Enjoy the beautiful woods, Wolf Creek, and spring wildflowers as we pull garlic mustard at Frances Broehl Memorial No. 1 (Lenawee County, near Onsted).

Rare Turtles, Go Green Trikes and the Keystone Pipeline: This Week in Environmental News

By Alyssa Kobylarek, MNA intern

Every Friday, MNA gathers news related to the environment from around the state and country. Here are a few highlights from what happened this week in environmental news:

The blanding's turtle has been a threatened species in Ontario since 2004. Photo by Shannon Keith via U.S. Fish and Wildlife Services

The Blanding’s turtle has been a threatened species in Ontario since 2004. Photo by Shannon Keith via U.S. Fish and Wildlife Services

Turtles vs. turbines (Great Lakes Echo): The Ontario Divisional Court has ruled in favor of a wind turbine project that put groups at odds with each other. The opposing groups are for alternative energy and protecting a threatened turtle species and fragile soil. There are nine turbines and access roads planned. if the turbines go in, then the habitat will be destroyed.

National Arbor Day Tree Planting to take place on April 25 (MSU Today): This year marks the 142nd anniversary of Arbor Day. To celebrate, Michigan State University is planting a 15-foot-tall Norway spruce outside the MSU Union at noon on Friday, April 25. The tree will replace a historic Norway spruce originally planted in 1865 that was lost during a windstorm last year.

Earth Day 2014 is launch date for environmentally friendly Go Green Trikes (mlive): On Earth Day, a business launched called Go Green Trikes, which is a company looking to deliver goods and services around Lansing. The bikes, called ELF, are large, orange, three-wheeled bikes that come complete with turn signals, break lights, and are battery-powered by a large solar panel.

Views You Can Use: Keystone XL Gets Put on a Shelf (US News): The Obama administration announced Friday that it will delay making a decision on the Keystone XL pipeline. The party is split on the issue, with Democrats from states with large oil economics calling for approval, but others are rejecting it for environmental reasons. The pipeline would run 1,700 miles from Canada to the Gulf Coast.

State, university officials and entrepreneurs waiting for drone industry take-off (Great Lakes Echo): The status of using Unmanned Aerial Vehicles commercially is banned by the FAA and it remains in effect until the case is ruled on again. Though it is against the rules, there are a number of companies that continue to use the drones for a variety of reasons, including photography and land management. It has been five years since officials began writing drone usage laws and they still are not finalized.

White Nose Syndrome Plagues Bats in Michigan

By Alyssa Kobylarek, MNA intern

It has devastated bat colonies around the country causing widespread death with no known cure. According to biologists, white nose syndrome has caused “the most precipitous wildlife decline in the past century of North America.” There is 100 percent mortality in some colonies and it could possibly lead to the extinction of some bat species.

White Nose Syndrome has been found on bats in Michigan for the first time. Photo courtesy of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Headquarters via Wikimedia Commons.

White Nose Syndrome has been found on bats in Michigan for the first time. Photo courtesy of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Headquarters via Wikimedia Commons.

White nose syndrome is a disease that has spread through the northeastern to central United States at a distressing rate. The disease is identified by the white fungus, Pseudogymnoascus destructans, that infects the skin on the nose, mouth, ears and wings of bats in hibernation with a white fuzzy growth. During hibernation, bats also display abnormal behaviors such as moving closer towards to the cave opening and waking up and flying during the day. These abnormal behaviors contribute to the early usage of the excess fat they store for the winter months in order to insulate them from the frigid temperatures. Exhausting their fat storage prematurely leads to emaciation and starvation.

White nose syndrome was first documented in 2006 in a cave in New York. Since then, the disease has eradicated more than 5.7 million bats. Species infected include the little brown bat, northern long-eared bat, eastern small-footed bat, Indiana bat, Gray bat, tricolored bat and the big brown bat. The syndrome is transmitted through bat-to-bat contact or infected environment-to-bat contact. Humans can also disseminate the fungus into new areas by using infected clothing and climbing gear and transferring it to a new cave, mine or roost.

White nose syndrome was discovered within Michigan’s borders in April 2014. It was found in three counties: Alpena, Dickinson and Mackinac. Five little brown bats were collected in February and March that showed signs of the disease. White nose syndrome was diagnosed in the bats by Michigan State University’s Diagnostic Center for Population and Animal Health, in cooperation with the DNR Wildlife Disease Laboratory. Continue reading

Birds Aplenty, EPA Emission Standards and a ‘State of Disaster’: This Week in Environmental News

By Alyssa Kobylarek, MNA intern

Each week, MNA gathers some of the top news stories related to the environment from around the state and country. Take a look at what happened this week in environmental news:

Michigan offers numerous opportunities for excellent spring birdwatching. Photo via Wikimedia Commons

Michigan offers numerous opportunities for excellent spring birdwatching. Photo via Wikimedia Commons

Birds aplenty at annual bird watching festival (mlive): Migratory birds are beginning to return to Michigan, and more than 500 bird species will return to the Upper Midwest this spring. Michigan offers numerous opportunities for spring birdwatching, with many spring birdwatching festivals. Many events offer guided tours, group socials, workshops and speakers on various topics.

Southwest Michigan wildfire danger will be high—when the snow’s gone (mlive): Wildfire season is here for Southwest Michigan, and there is already an increased risk of fire spreading out of control. DNR firefighters are conducting several prescribed burns to remove dry grasses, leaf litter and invasive plants, but homeowners should be cautious about using fire to burn leaves until they get full grass green-up.

Court Upholds EPA Emission Standards (ABC News): A federal appeals court on Tuesday upheld the Environmental Protection Agency’s first emission standards for mercury and other hazardous air pollutants from coal and oil fired power plants. The court rejected state and industry challenges to rules designed to clean up dangerous toxins. The ruling is a giant step forward on the road to cleaner, healthier air.

Gov. Rick Snyder seeks to double Michigan recycling rate in next two years (mlive): Gov. Rick Snyder released a plan to boost recycling of household solid waste in Michigan. Our state lags behind other states in this field. The initiative calls for doubling within two years the rate at which Michigan recycles cans, newspapers, bottles and other household refuse. The plan would take a four-pronged approach.

Governor declares ‘state of disaster’ for Osceola, Newaygo counties (Up North Live): After severe storms, melting snow and heavy rain that caused severe flooding and wind damage, the Governor for Newaygo and Osceola counties declared a state of disaster. This will allow the state to make resources available to help with local response and recovery efforts. Both counties were severely affected by flooding and it forced many to evacuate their homes.