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Help needed to eradicate destructive invader

Garlic mustard, an invasive weed, poses a threat to our Columbia Gorge scenic area. And it's a menace only we can stop.

It may be difficult to stop, but with the community helping, there is hope.

Garlic mustard, or Alliaria Petiolata, is a biennial that grows 24- to 48- inches tall in its second year when its flower stalk has grown.

Its flowers are white and form a cross-like shape. When a plant goes to seed, it will have about 20 stiff siliques, or seed pods, which will turn tan and become brittle when they mature. Each one contains at least 500 seeds and the seeds can stay dormant for up to five years.

Garlic mustard not only crowds out native plants but also has the ability to poison them because of plant chemicals that are released from the roots and decaying leaves.

Obviously a plant like this is a threat to our delicate wildflowers, but it also poses a threat to trees because its plant chemicals specifically target a fungus that is vital to the proper growth of a sapling.

Imagine driving along the Historic Columbia River Highway and seeing a blight of garlic mustard in place of our majestic evergreens and innocent wildflowers, such as bleeding heart or trillium.

There is no quick fix for garlic mustard. It doesn't have any natural predators in the Pacific Northwest, and there aren't any foreign predators that are safe to import at the moment.

This problem is not going to fix itself, and the government can only do so much. The county already is doing its part and you need to do yours.

Stopping the spread of this plant and, hopefully, eradicating garlic mustard from the gorge should be a goal of our community. You can do your part in achieving this goal today.

There are several ways you can remove garlic mustard. The best option is to pull it, but you must make sure to get at least three-fourths of the root because otherwise it will start to grow again. Pulling the plant is time consuming, but it is one of the most effective options.

You also could also cut it right before or after flowering, but your timing needs to be perfect. If you're too late, the plant could continue to mature and go to seed, but if you're too early, it could start to re-grow.

Either way, it is crucial that you put the remains in a garbage bag to keep the seeds from spreading. You should dispose of the bag in the garlic mustard container located across the street from the Corbett Water District office. It's the only container there.

You can do this right now; find a patch and start pulling. If you want more information on the description, ecology or containment of garlic mustard, visit the garlic mustard page at the East Multnomah Soil and Water Conservation District web site at emswcd.org.

Do your part to help exterminate this noxious weed.