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Garlic mustard

Quick facts

Garlic mustard is an invasive species. Garlic mustard is on the Restricted weed list. It is illegal to import, sell or transport propagating parts.

  • Garlic mustard is an herbaceous plant found in the understory of high-quality woodlands, upland and floodplain forests and disturbed areas.
  • It inhibits beneficial fungi associated with native plants, causing a decline in herbaceous vegetation within five to seven years.

Garlic mustard should be reported. Learn how to report invasive species in Minnesota. 

How to identify garlic mustard

Patch of garlic mustard growing in woods.
  • Garlic mustard (Alliaria petiolata) is a biennial herbaceous plant.
  • It forms a rosette in the first year, one to six inches tall, and grows to one to four feet high in its second and flowering year.
  • Often the only plant of this height blooming white in wooded environments in May.


  • Weak single stems.


    • Dark green leaves are round with a scalloped edge.
    • Second year plants have alternate leaves. Leaves and stems smell like onion or garlic when crushed.
    • Leaves remain green throughout the winter.


    • Numerous small, white flowers with four separate petals are present on second year plants.


    • Slender capsules, one to two and one half inches long, containing a single row of oblong black seeds.
    • Seeds mature in July or August and are viable in the soil for five years.
    • Spread along wildlife trails.


    • White, slender taproot, S-shaped at the top.
    • If pulling plant, need to remove the root.
    Patch of first-year garlic mustard rosettes near a tree.
    Patch of first-year garlic mustard rosettes
    Garlic mustard leaves with small flower bud.
    Mature garlic mustard leaves
    Garlic mustard plant with small white flowers.
    Garlic mustard flower

    Authors: Angela Gupta, Amy Rager, Megan M. Weber, Extension educators

    Reviewed in 2020

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