Mariton: Measuring Success

May 3, 2016

by Tim Burris, Preserve Manager

We have been actively removing Garlic Mustard (Alliaria oficinalis) for ten years now.  Garlic Mustard is an invasive plant that actually kills the soil mycorrhiza important to native plant health. In 2006, we pulled it along most of the trails where it was established, but I don’t think we did a thorough job the first year.  We just tried to get the big clusters.

We composted what we pulled that year, and that was important. Even after the plant is uprooted, the flowers can still develop into seeds.  For that reason it is important that you don’t pull it and drop it as you walk along a trail.  (That was a hard lesson learned through experience.)

2007 - one truck load.

2007 – One truck load.

In 2007, three high school seniors removed Garlic Mustard for their senior project. They did a much better job than we had the first year.  This photo recorded just one of the loads removed from the Kit and Chimney Rock Trails.  There were still some remote areas that they didn’t get, but these young ladies removed several truck loads that spring.

After that year we continued to aggressively remove Garlic Mustard each spring, and reached into areas farther from the trails. And each year there was less to remove.  We will probably never exhaust the seed bank, but we are making a positive effect.  In fact, all the work we had done previous to Hurricane Sandy controlled the invasion into the blow down areas.


2016 – Carrying out bundles to the loading area.

Jump forward to 2016. This year I scheduled a volunteer day, and then had a hard time finding areas to pull it.  We had a great turn out of volunteers who worked very hard.  We got most of what was on the property.  I’ll say that again.  We got most of the garlic mustard on the 200 acres of Mariton – and we came up with only three tractor bucket loads.

2016 - the results of 40+ human-hours of removal.

2016 – Three loads, the results of 40+ combined hours of removal.

Our success is measured in part by the “diminishing returns” of our removal efforts. The other (and perhaps more important) measure of success is the number of native wildflowers taking over the woods of Mariton.  If you recall at the beginning of this post I mentioned that Garlic Mustard kills soil mycorrhiza. Mariton’s soil is now healthier, and the native wildflowers and trees are too.  Now that is sweet success that you can see with your own eyes.  (You can see it on the wildflower walk I’ll be doing this Saturday.)