Great Garlic Mustard Gathering Challenges Volunteers to Remove and Utilize Invasive Plants from the Appalachian Trail

Date Published: Apr 15, 2011

Asheville, NC (April 15, 2011) — The Appalachian Trail Conservancy (ATC) is hosting a special event to remove the invasive weed garlic mustard (Alliaria petiolata) from the land surrounding the Appalachian Trail (A.T.), with teams competing to pull the largest amount of the weed from the Trail. This event will be held at Max Patch (Max Patch Rd Hot Springs, North Carolina 28743) on April 23 at 9 a.m. 

The ATC and the Southern Appalachian Cooperative Weed Management Partnership (SACWMP) host several workshops annually to address the issue of invasive exotic (IE) plants.  The Great Garlic Mustard Gathering will not only engage participants in a service to the iconic Trail, will also teach people about the threats of invasive exotic plants, how to identify them and what techniques are used to monitor and remove these infestations to protect native biodiversity.

The ATC will distribute guidebooks, DVDs, and other materials helpful for the identification and management of IE plants. After a morning of garlic mustard removal, the group will gather on nearby Max Patch for an optional potluck / picnic.

The picnic will reward participants with 360 degree mountain views and staff will award prizes for the team which pulls and bags the most garlic mustard, the most clever team name, and of course, style points are always a consideration.  The other aim of the picnic is to raise awareness of how many invasive exotic plants can be utilized after removal.  Many of these non-native invaders wreak havoc on our native ecosystems, but have properties that can be useful to human beings.  Garlic mustard, for example, was introduced as a culinary herb, and the leaves have a mild flavor of garlic and, you guessed it – mustard.  However, garlic mustard escaped cultivation and has spread aggressively in North American natural areas due to a lack of natural controls and its release of allelopathic chemicals which inhibit seed germination of other species.  Keeping this history in mind, participants are encouraged to experiment with and share different recipes using garlic mustard removed that morning or in the previous days. 

Garlic mustard, however, is not the only IE plant that is considered edible.  In preparation for this event, people have already expressed interest in baking pies with young Japanese knotweed shoots, brewing tea made from multiflora rose hips and experimenting with other IE plant recipes.  Many other IE species, if not edible, have certain properties that can be used to our benefit.  For example, vines like kudzu and Japanese honeysuckle have been used for centuries for their medicinal properties and also for weaving baskets.  The wood from the invasive exotic princess tree is prized for its character and workability, and several of these plants can be used to make paper, ink, dyes, or other crafts.  Though not required, all participants are encouraged to bring a “show and tell” item or culinary dish made from a wild-harvested, invasive exotic plant in order to create a dialogue for how we can creatively utilize these plants rather than viewing them simply as a problem.  In the spirit of the event, prizes will be awarded for the best culinary use of garlic mustard and the most creative use of any other invasive plant. 

When using these plants, people need to be aware of the threats IE plants pose to native biodiversity, and be careful not to spread seeds in the preparation of crafts or food items.  Furthermore, it is very important to be certain of a plant’s identity and whether it is truly edible before it is ingested.  For some inspiration on how to utilize IE plant species, you can visit the following websites or contact the Appalachian Trail Conservancy.

The ATC will provide work gloves and all other materials needed for the garlic mustard removal.  Volunteers wishing to use their own gloves are invited to bring them, and everyone should come prepared with a lunch, water, boots or sturdy shoes, and appropriate attire for variable spring weather.

Another workshop will be held at Lemon Gap on April 9 with the similar goal of removing garlic mustard.  Though no prizes will be awarded on April 9, volunteers will be sent home with a commemorative pin, guidebooks and a DVD about invasive plants.  Furthermore, any plants removed on the 9th can be used to perfect a recipe and share it at the Great Garlic Mustard Gathering on April 23rd. 

To register for the event, call the ATC’s Resource Management Coordinator at (828) 254-3708 or email [email protected].  In the case of rain, the event will be rescheduled for the following Saturday, April 30. 

About the Appalachian Trail Conservancy
The Appalachian Trail Conservancy mission is to preserve and manage the Appalachian Trail – ensuring that its vast natural beauty and priceless cultural heritage can be shared and enjoyed today, tomorrow, and for centuries to come. For more information please visit

Contact: John Odell
Appalachian Trail Conservancy
Tel: 828.254.3708
Fax: 828.254.3754
Email: [email protected]

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