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Newton Conservators rip up vegetation

2013 June 16
by Jerry Reilly

garlicmustardThe Newton Conservators are a great volunteer group that are the protectors, watchdogs, and advocates for all of our park land.  Much of their work, as you might expect, has to do with conserving the best of our parks.  A dedicated group of Conservators also works on ripping out the worse – and that means Garlic Mustard.

Garlic mustard is a lovely looking, highly invasive plant that can be found all over the eastern US.  Once established, it spreads quickly and crowds out most of the local vegetation.

All spring long, the Conservators have been organizing  garlic mustard pulls in various neighborhoods around the city.  In each neighborhood, they recruit local volunteers and go to work.  Today, was Upper Falls’ turn, with the work centered on a bit of Hemlock Gorge and a lot of Quinnobequin Rd.

The Conservator’s Katherine Howard is a walking encyclopedia  of every garlic mustard patch in Newton.  She shows the volunteers how to ID the nasty weed, how to pull it and dispose of it and then off they go.   This morning’s crew of eight included local Alderman Brian Yates who was back for his second year as a mustard puller.  Between his work today pulling weeds and next week’s gig as a waiter at The Feast of the Falls, Alderman Yates is doing a lot of work with direct public service these days.

By morning’s end there were a big stack of black trash bags piled up at the bottom of Ellis St, ready for disposal by the DCR.  I snuck back and snagged my own cache of the troublesome weed this afternoon.  A friend sent me a recipe for what she claims is a delicious garlic mustard pesto.  I’ll let you know how that turns out.

The only sour note on the morning was that one of the volunteers left their bicycle by the side of Quinnobequin Rd.  When he came out of the woods, his bike was gone.  If anyone has any information about this please contact me (




6 Responses Post a comment
  1. June 17, 2013 01:34 PM

    I will absolutely refuse to serve any garlic mustard dishes at the Feast of the Falls.

    Residents concerned about invasive plants should attend the lecture by Professor Eric Olsen of Brandeis at the Newton Free Library on Tuesday June 18 at 7;00 P.M. in the auditorium. Professor Olsen puts his labor where his academic life is. He was another member of the crew removing garlic mustard on Quinobequin Road last Sunday.

  2. Jerry Reilly permalink
    June 17, 2013 01:53 PM

    I figure the quickest way to clear out the garlic mustard across the city is to turn it into a hard to source cash crop, coveted by the best chefs in the area. But OK, we’ll leave it off the Feast menu …. or let you sit out that course.

  3. Julia Malakie permalink
    June 17, 2013 02:29 PM

    If anyone isn’t sure what it looks like, you can see closeups in my post from last year People may have isolated bits of it in their yards, especially if you abut conservation land, and those are the easiest to get rid of, before it spreads.

    I think at this point the little white flowers are gone, and it’s the spiky seed pods that are really noticeable. And don’t shake out the roots; the soil probably contains seeds from previous years.

  4. Ted Hess-Mahan permalink
    June 17, 2013 03:29 PM

    Good tip, Brian, although it is Professor Eric Olson. Eric and his family lives across the street from me and I still remember the first time we met. He came to my door to ask permission to trim some branches from my Hickory tree in the back yard so he could feed the leaves to the Luna Moth caterpillars that he was raising. Apparently, no one else in the neighborhood has a Hickory tree and we have been friends ever since. He was also the first person to tell me to pull up that Garlic Mustard in my garden before it sterilized all of the soil around it.

  5. Brian Yates permalink
    June 26, 2013 06:46 PM

    Euinric Olson explained at his lecture that one of the problems with the garlic mustard, japanese knotweed and other invasives is not just that they crowd out other plants, but that they ruin the area for insects, birds and other animals higher on the food chain. The leaves of the invasives are usually pristine because insects won’t eat them. Birds and other animals that eat insects have less food available so there are fewer of them. The net result of invasive plants taking over an area will large areas of knotweed and garlic mustard with few if any other plants or songbirds or butterflies.

  6. Brian Yates permalink
    June 26, 2013 06:50 PM

    Obviously Professor Olsen’s first name is Eric. The last sentence should read. “The net result of invasive plants taking over an area will be large crops of knotweed, garlic mustard, etc. with few, if any, other plants or songbirds or butterflies.

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