ISHPEMING - Liz Coyne stopped her walk along the Iron Ore Heritage Trail to pull out a tall white-flowered plant.
"This whole area between the trail and the fence is pretty much invasives," she said, examining the thick root at the base of the plant. A faint smell of garlic wafted up from the crushed leaves.
Garlic mustard, considered an invasive plant, has become the focus for the next couple of weeks along the IOHT for the Central Upper Peninsula Cooperative Weed Management Area.
Liz Coyne, coordinator of the Central Upper Peninsula Cooperative Weed Management Area, stops along the Iron Ore Heritage Trail to explain the characteristics of an invasive garlic mustard plant Thursday in Ishpeming. (Journal photo by Johanna Boyle)
"It's a well-used path and we try to control pathways of invasion," Coyne, coordinator of the CUPCWMA, said. "If the garlic mustard seed is picked up by trail users, it can be taken to their own yards."
A tall plant with small white flowers and heart-shaped leaves, garlic mustard was originally a garden herb that gives off a slight garlic smell, but now it threatens to take over forest areas, choking out not just native flowers, but also tree seedlings. Coyne is coordinating weekly mustard-pulling sessions along the trail to limit the growth of the plants before they go to seed later in the summer.
"The thing that makes it easy to spot is the tall stem with the white flowers," Coyne said.
Because the trail was recently put in, invasive species, including forget-me-nots and spotted knapweed, have had a chance to grow up along the sides of the trail.
In the spring, garlic mustard is typically one of the first plants to begin growing, giving it a head-start on the native plant species. This year especially, the mustard is further along than normal, due to early warm temperatures, Coyne said.
Coyne's group meets at 6:30 p.m. on Thursdays, pulling the garlic mustard and bagging it to be thrown away so it cannot spread any further.
"Throw it in the garbage and please don't send it to the city compost," Coyne said.
The group also meets on Tuesdays at 6:30 p.m. in Marquette at the industrial park off of Hawley Street to pull garlic mustard as well.
Invasive plants are considered a danger to natural habitats because - since they didn't evolve in the area - they don't have natural enemies which could limit their spread. They can invade quickly and overtake native plants.
Coyne is also in the process of planning a larger invasive-pulling event for National Trails Day on June 5, which will also work in a celebration of the IOHT.
Those interested in getting involved in either the Tuesday or Thursday pulling can email Coyne at email@example.com.
For more information on invasive plants, visit the Upper Peninsula Invasives Council Web site at upicweeds.org.
Johanna Boyle can be reached at 906-486-4401. Her e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org.