Common Groundsel goes by many names - Old-Man-In-The-Spring, bird-seed, grimsel to name a few.
It is an introduced species to North America and has spread invasively across the country - most likely due to it being used as food for pet canaries as was the trend to keep them.
This plant begins to bloom and spread its seed in early spring and continuing into late autumn sometimes producing three to four generations in one season!
Animals large and small will eat this weed (except horses and sheep who are much pickier). It is safe for smaller animals to eat but can cause liver damage in horses and cattle.
As with many introduced species this one too comes with a laundry list of claims to fix this, that, and another thing, here are some...
- Groundsel was good for wounds as had been caused by being struck by iron.
- As a remedy for chapped hands, pour boiling water on the fresh plant, the liquid then forms a pleasant swab for the skin and will remove chapping.
- For gout it was recommended to 'pound it with lard, lay it to the feet, and it will alleviate the disorder.'
Yes, this sounds like a delicious condiment but it is in fact a highly invasive non-native plant.
About the plant.
"Garlic mustard is a biennial herb. It begins as a rosette of leaves in the first year, overwinters as a green rosette of leaves, flowers and fruits in the second year, and then dies. First-year rosettes consist of kidney-shaped, garlic-smelling leaves, the second-year plant grows a stem up to 4 feet tall with triangular, sharply-toothed leaves. The small, four-petaled flowers are white and grow in clusters at the top of the stem. Garlic mustard produces large quantities of seeds which can remain viable for seven years or more." This species can survive in bright to dim locations, wet or dry soils. It is resilient and can grow anywhere.
What makes this plant so bad?
Crowds out native plant species by carpeting the forest floor and not allowing access to light for native species.
This plant sits in the top 10 most invasive species in Ohio list.
Poses as a place for butterflies to lay eggs, but is toxic to caterpillars and has been killing off the West Virginia White Butterfly.
What can I do about it?
Eradicating garlic mustard is easy work, but takes time. The ultimate goal in removing garlic mustard is to prevent seed development and spreading until the existing seed bank is depleted. Unluckily for us, this may take 2- 5 years in any confined area. Cutting the flowering stems at ground level and pulling plants before they set seed is one method that can be done in smaller areas, but may be too labor intensive for large patches. It's important to know when pulling garlic mustard you should always make sure that the taproot is completely removed or the plant will re-Garlic mustard its sprout. All cutting should be bagged, dried and then burned.
Many local parks have 'Garlic Mustard Pulls' this time of year. Check with your local parks for opportunities to volunteer!
Since 2015 we have been exploring and sharing all the amazing things we’ve found in nature.
Emily is an Ohio Certified Volunteer Naturalist who is most often found out in the woods.