Brandywine State Park and The Invasion of Garlic Mustard

A Volunteer Experience of Invasive Species

Wilmington, DE: On April 27th, 2017, Caitlin, Maya, and Alex, three students of the University of Delaware set out to explore and volunteer at Brandywine Creek State Park. It was a bright, sunny day when they arrived. They were greeted by the head volunteer coordinator, Eleanor Boyce. The view was beautiful and the three weren’t sure what their day of volunteering would entail.

Brandywine State Park

After grabbing working gloves the group of volunteers were told that they had to pick an invasive species called, Garlic Mustard. The group was shown how they must pick the plant and that the species was around the side of the stream and throughout the trails in the park. Thus, the volunteer group set out on the trials and near the stream in search of the invasive species. Eleanor was not kidding when she said that they were everywhere!

To understand why it is important to the park to get rid of the Garlic Mustard we first must understand the meaning of an invasive species. According to the NISIC website they define an invasive species as, “(1) non-native (or alien) to the ecosystem under consideration and (2) whose introduction causes or is likely to cause economic or environmental harm or harm to human health.” Furthermore, NISIC states “Human actions are the primary means of invasive species introductions.” Thus, Garlic Mustard is considered an invasive species for the following reasons. The American Institute of Biological Science states, “Garlic mustard (Alliaria petiolata) is a nonnative, shade-tolerant forb that was introduced into North America in the mid-1800s. Currently, garlic mustard is spreading across the landscape at a rate of 6400 square kilometers per year.” As you can see, it is imperative to the native plants in the area that the removal of Garlic Mustard happens.

As Maya, Caitlin, and Alex were picking Garlic Mustard they also encountered a species that hurt like no other. This menace was called the stinging nettle, and one would not be able to tell its pain from just looking at it. According to Andy Brunning, “Stinging nettles are covered in tiny hollow hairs (trichomes). When you brush against them, you break the fragile silica tips off the hairs, and then they act like a needle, piercing the skin, and causing the nettle’s venom to be injected.” After being injected by the venom, Alex, was concerned about the rash and bumps spreading on her arm until another volunteer informed her of the stinging nettle. It took several hours before the stingy sensation to go away, but the students continued ridding the park of the Garlic Mustard.

Garlic Mustard
Stinging Nettle

As the day went on the students found themselves deep within the trails with a full bag of Garlic Mustard. They decided to head back and see what the other volunteers had found. When they arrived at their original meeting place, they found that all the volunteers had found a ton of Garlic Mustard. The group felt satisfied with their work, as did Eleanor with the progress of making the park cleaner.

Overall, the students made their day as productive and adventurous as possible with a new found respective for the people who work in parks daily. Below you will see pictures from their experience.

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