Garlic Mustard

March 3rd, 2012

Latin: Alliaria petiolata

Irish: Bóchoinneal

A native species that flowers during May to June. Although it sometimes behaves as an annual, it usually grows as an erect biennial (flowering in second year) reaching a height of up to 1m. Its favoured habitat is in damp hedgerows and meadows on non-acidic soils.

It is from the same family (Cruciferae) as mustard, cabbage, turnip and oilseed rape and, as the family name implies, the four petals of its smallish white flowers give a cruciform shape.

The foliage has a slightly garlic odour when crushed and the root is scented like horse radish. It can be used in salads and pesto and was used for medicinal purposes in the treatment of bronchitis and to relieve the itching caused by bites and stings.

Collected during May in the Builder’s Paddock. The leaves are almost heart-shaped and are smooth on the upper surface and hairy below. Seeds are borne in pods (3-5 cm long). The Orange-Tip butterfly larvae feed on the pods but they are difficult to see because the pods and the caterpillar are so alike.

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