Biology and Spread
After spending the first half of its two-year life cycle as a rosette of leaves, garlic mustard plants develop rapidly the following spring into mature plants that flower, produce seed and die by late June. In the mid-Atlantic Coastal Plain region, seeds are produced in erect, slender, four-sided pods, called siliques, beginning in May. Siliques become tan and papery as they mature and contain shiny black seeds in a row. By late June, most of the leaves have faded away and garlic mustard plants can be recognized only by the dead and dying stalks of dry, pale brown seedpods that may remain and hold viable seed throughout the summer.
A single plant can produce thousands of seeds, which scatter as much as several meters from the parent plant. Depending upon conditions, garlic mustard flowers either self-fertilize or are cross-pollinated by a variety of insects. Self-fertilized seed is genetically identical to the parent plant, enhancing its ability to colonize an area. Although water may transport seeds of garlic mustard, they do not float well and are probably not carried far by wind. Long distance dispersal is most likely aided by human activities and wildlife. Additionally, because white-tailed deer prefer native plants to garlic mustard, large deer populations may help to expand it by removing competing native plants and exposing the soil and seedbed through trampling.
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