Garlic Mustard, An Undesirable Ingredient
It was a covert ground-assault by a small group of dedicated resisters, led by Thomas Unrau of the NCC, on an invader to the perhaps not so Happy Valley. I’d signed up to participate in a valiant effort to thwart the relentless advance of an intruder known to choke the life out of native populations, and arrived at our rendezvous point, resigned to the task. Identified by its common and cleverly disguised name, the Garlic Mustard, (Alliaria petiolata) may sound like a harmless enemy, but sadly, once it establishes a root-hold, it quickly displaces native flowers and ground vegetation.
Like many other invasive species, the Garlic Mustard was originally introduced to North America, all be it naively, by early European settlers to the U.S. As a wild edible, it is a nutritious green, high in vitamins A and C as well as several essential minerals.
However, as an unwanted guest, it spreads easily and releases a compound into the soil, that displaces and discourages root growth by other herbaceous plant species. Native flowers such as Trilliums, Trout-lilies and Jack-in-the-pulpits that have evolved to flourish in the rich soils found under the shaded canopy of mature hardwood forests, find it difficult to overcome the aggressive, colonizing onslaught of Garlic Mustard.
Armed with nothing more than work gloves, garbage bags and a commitment to halt the advance of the invader on a few hundred square metres of the Happy Valley Forest, our team of enthusiastic, volunteer weekend-warriors headed deep into what has to be one of the most beautiful deciduous forests I’ve ever had the privilege of walking through. A true gem on the Oak Ridges Moraine within Ontario’s Greenbelt.
The Nature Conservancy of Canada, (NCC) who own several sections of land within the Happy Valley Forest, is a Not For Profit private land conservation organization, dedicated to protecting and rehabilitating significant natural areas, and the flora and fauna species they sustain. Since 1962, NCC and its partners have helped to protect more than 2.7 million acres (1.1 million hectares), from coast to coast to coast.
This may have been my first visit to the Happy Valley Forest, but it certainly won’t be my last. With camera in hand and tripod over my shoulder, I intend to return to spend time to recharge my soul, to photograph the awesome beauty and to do my part to protect and polish this priceless jewel.
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