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Hartford Targets Invasive Garlic Mustard Plant

Garlic mustard in bloom. (Barbara McIlroy photograph)

Garlic mustard in bloom. (Barbara McIlroy photograph)

White River Junction — Jon Bouton took a little piece of leaf in his hand, and angled it in front of the nose of Gavin Farnsworth.

“What’s it smell like?” Bouton asked, rubbing the plant between his fingers. “Garlic, or mustard, or neither?”

Gavin, 8, sniffed the piece of garlic mustard, an invasive plant starting to take root both in the woods and on the roadsides of Hartford. Next to him, his father, Scott Farnsworth, of White River Junction, smelled a leaf of his own, reacted, and tossed it onto the ground.

The duo ended up taking a couple of bags from Bouton’s table outside the Hartford Municipal Building, leaving with the intent of finding and eradicating some garlic mustard of their own.

Yesterday was the 43rd Green Up Day, an annual event held on the first Saturday of May in which Vermonters are encouraged to spend the day cleaning up their state. About 15,000 volunteers pick up about 40,000 bags of trash a year, according to a state news release.

But Hartford yesterday made sure to zero in on a more specific problem: the recent proliferation the invasive garlic mustard plant, which can crowd out native species of flowers and trees. Here, unlike its native Europe, garlic mustard has no predators. In the plant’s second year of life, it flowers and produces scores of seeds. Those seeds can be spread easily through activities such as dumping and logging equipment, and inside of mulch hay.

“The seeds are just really tough,” said Bouton, who is a member of the town’s conservation commission and also the Windsor County forester. His booth outside of the Municipal Building adjoined the town Tree Board’s tree and shrub sale.

Those interested in ridding an area of garlic mustard can go to the town planning office, Bouton said, where they can choose an unpicked road or area from a map of the town and grab a few Green Up Day bags in which to put the plant. Killing garlic mustard by hand is simple, he said — just grab the stem near the ground and pull out the root — but make sure to get it into a closed bag or the trash, as it will thrive if composted.

“We’ve certainly seen it on our walk to school and such,” said Scott Farnworth, after picking up a few bags and choosing a small group of roads near Hartford High School.

Dumpsters will be available until Tuesday outside of the Municipal Building and on the Quechee green, and bags will be accepted at the Hartford Recycling Center through Saturday.

The struggle against garlic mustard has also stretched across the Connecticut River, as the Upper Valley Land Trust has also launched a campaign against the species. It will hold “pulling parties” adjacent to the Mink Brook Nature Preserve off Buck Road in Hanover on Tuesday and on May 13 and 20 from 4-6 p.m. Other events are planned in Lebanon.

“Now is our chance to deal with it,” Barbara McIlroy, of the Hanover Biodiversity Committee, said in a statement.

Jon Wolper can be reached at jwolper@vnews.com or 603-727-3248.