Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Cut The Mustard

I suppose it is timely. Not only because I recently and guiltily posted photos of the mustard growing in my side yard and Michelle at The Clueless Gardeners called me on it, but also because it is blooming right now all over New England, its been on my mind since I saw it blooming in Cadman Plaza Park last week, and because of a video I saw months ago on Susan Harris' Sustainable Gardening.

On the train to my new setting in Connecticut I spied thousands of Alliaria petiolata or 'Garlic Mustard' plants and hundreds of Hesperis matronalis or 'Dame's Rocket.' I saw several good looking clumps of Garlic Mustard in Cadman Plaza Park last week, where I pulled some leaves and crumpled them in my hands to catch the faint, slow release of garlic scent they're named for. Dame's Rocket is blooming superlatively in my side yard right now, so its cousins on the rail and road sides called out to me as I blew by on the train. I saw lots of other invasives too, but let's talk about rail as a vector for weeds and invasives another day, shall we.

Behind my cottage is a stone wall. Walk along it and you'll find these steps, leading from the Weir home through the wall... the field below.

The field is filled with many plants, including the mustard I speak of.

Dame's Rocket left, Garlic Mustard right.

I know these plants now, I see them. Before this year I hardly thought of mustard. It was those rangy herbs growing in ditch and roadside during my winters in southern New Mexico. When we think of mustard, and we must, we think of Guldens, French's, or even Gray Poupon. That is mustard! Or at least its seeds ground into condiment. But what of the other mustards, like horseradish, turnips, broccoli, etc., etc? North America is home to many mustard farms and mustard is a weed to many farmers. Hmmm.

Here at Weir Farm National Historic Site the National Park Service has a dual role. They must preserve and interpret a human landscape which carries a legacy of weeds and invasive plants and they must also be sensitive to the native habitat of Weir Preserve. How can they balance these? Tomorrow I take my tour with a ranger. I'll ask.


  1. *grin* Well, I'm tickled pink to see you writing on this topic! I eagerly await to hear what the ranger says. Cheers!


If I do not respond to your comment right away, it is only because I am busy pulling out buckthorn, creeping charlie, and garlic mustard...