Garlic mustard eradication continues

Juneau's fight may benefit entire state

Posted: Sunday, July 12, 2009

For the last eight years, members of the Juneau community have been fighting to keep garlic mustard from spreading across Juneau and into other communities across the state. Juneau's two infestation sites are the only known populations of garlic mustard in all of Alaska.

Courtesy Of Melinda Lamb
Courtesy Of Melinda Lamb

This has drawn considerable attention and emphasis for eradication of garlic mustard in Juneau due to the damage this species has caused in other areas of the country.

Garlic mustard has completely wiped out understory plants from closed-canopy forests in many parts of North America - from New England through the Midwest, and from southern Ontario to Tennessee. It has become established in the cities of Portland, Ore., and Seattle, Wash., and is widespread in the Columbia River Gorge. It is shade tolerant so it establishes easily under forest canopy where it crowds out wildflowers, small shrubs and trees, and it uses its allelopathic traits to poison the soil for other plants.

The first garlic mustard patch was found by Central Council of Tlingit & Haida staff in Juneau in 2001. It was located behind the Alaska Native Brotherhood Hall and Fireweed Place on the slope leading up toward the Governor's Mansion.

A group quickly assembled which recognized the dangers of this invasive plant and the potential destruction garlic mustard could have on Alaskan Forests. This group began organizing the first volunteer weed pulls in Juneau, which continued each year through the present.

These pulls were an excellent demonstration of community commitment to preserving the native vegetation of Alaska. Eventually, through community education, another small patch of garlic mustard was reported, and is also being pulled. The second patch is located at the Auke Bay Recreational Area.

Over the last eight years, a group has formalized the commitment to controlling and monitoring garlic mustard and other invasive plants in Juneau. This group is known as the Juneau Cooperative Weed Management Area or JNU-CWMA, and it supports many outreach and education activities as well as weed pulling.

The JNU-CWMA, with support of its members, has focused on garlic mustard control in the past and now is focusing on eradication of this species. Eradication is extremely difficult, because these mustard plants produce small seeds and can flower and seed underneath very thick vegetation, making them extremely difficult to locate.

Another barrier to the eradication is the complexity of the downtown site. The slope is very steep and unstable in places which make it unsafe for many volunteers to pull in these areas.

In response to these concerns, the JNU-CWMA has contracted with Parks Landscaping to increase the frequency of control and monitoring efforts to once a month from April to October. This is a much more intense schedule compared to the two or three volunteer pulls that had taken place in the past.

JNU-CWMA hopes that with the increased monitoring of the hillside and the continued support of the local property owners in the area, this garlic mustard population with be controlled and eradicated over the next five years.

In conclusion, I would like to commend all the past volunteers and the supportive property and home owners who have dedicated their time and energy to helping with this fight against garlic mustard.

If you would like more information about this project or for questions regarding invasive species in Juneau, contact Melinda Lamb at 586-8811 ext. 283.

• Melinda Lamb is a Forest Health Protection officer for the Alaska Region of the U.S. Department of Agriculture Forest Service. She lives in Juneau.

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