Don’t miss the forest for the garlic mustard

By Alex Peters, Summer Stewardship Crew Member 2016

Stewardship Crew members Alex Peters and Nathan Wells worked hard throughout Summer 2016 to maintain and improve Legacy’s preserves.

On a hot day, the shady woods feel comfortable and cool. My eyes search for the Legacy Stewardship Crew’s public enemy number one:  a two-foot-tall, spindly plant with toothed triangular leaves and a distinctive odor. Three of us stoop to rip garlic mustard out by the roots and stuff it into bright orange bags. Bending over, pulling, and stuffing continue for hours, and acres. By eradicating invasive species, we hope to restore the landscape that functioned here for centuries before exotic invasive plants moved in.

Working on invasive species management, I systematically scan the ground for problem plants…yet by focusing on these components of the land, it’s easy to lose sight of the landscape and overlook the larger ecosystem.

Garlic Mustard, Invasive Species, Michigan Invasive Species

Garlic Mustard

Appreciating how we interact with the entire landscape—fostering a personal connection to the land—is one of the most important aspects of land stewardship. Walking through the forest with all senses tuned to our environment allows us to step outside ourselves for a moment.

So after searching for invasive plants, I remind myself to take another look at Michigan’s beauty at least once a day. Walking through the forests, meadows, and wetlands on Legacy’s preserves, I feel awe and increasing respect for the natural forces that created these landscapes.

The next time you find yourself in the natural outdoors, pause to appreciate the beautiful, functional landscapes surrounding you.

This article first appeared in Legacy’s Fall 2016 newsletter. All of our newsletters are available for download.

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