Blog Archives

Burning Bush: Beauty IS the beast

Check out this video about burning bush.


The removal of an invasive plant species is not normally considered art, but a unique partnership between Cleveland Metroparks and SPACES Gallery is about to change that.

    Japanese-born artist Mimi Kato, a SPACES World Artist Program resident, created a participatory art installation at Sunset Pond in the North Chagrin Reservation that coincides with the Park District’s removal of the invasive species glossy buckthorn.

    To create the exhibit, Cleveland Metroparks Invasive Plant Management Crew used power and hand tools to remove large quantities of buckthorn shrubs around Sunset Pond. As the buckthorn was removed, Kato used reflective tape to represent each buckthorn stem, creating a one-of-a-kind outdoor art installation that will be visible from across the pond along the trail next to the pond.

    The exhibit will be in place from August 23 through October 17. To experience the installation, visitors must bring a flashlight or headlamp to the park in the evening. The exhibit is meant to be viewed by putting the flashlight next to your eyes and aiming it across the water to see lights reflected back by the tape. Each light represents a buckthorn plant that crew members cut and treated with herbicide.

    As Kato moved around the U.S. over the past six years, she noticed something strange: an abundance of plant life she recognized from her birthplace in Nara, Japan. Plants like Japanese knotweed, glossy buckthorn and kudzu made new landscapes unexpectedly familiar to her. Over time, Kato learned that these plants are extremely problematic invasive species in the U.S., disturbing the health and diversity of ecosystems. She was fascinated by the fact that plants she knew to be useful became damaging simply by being in the wrong place.

    Her work in both Cleveland Metroparks and SPACES highlights one of the most problematic invasive plants in the region, glossy buckthorn, and the efforts of invasive plant control crews to maintain an ecological balance in the Park District. The project allows the audience to appreciate the sheer volume of invasive species that threaten the ecological health of our region and aims to start a dialogue to discuss what impact we have on our surroundings and what role we want to play in creating our daily landscapes.

    Sunset Pond is located next to North Chagrin Nature Center, off Buttermilk Falls Parkway, off the Sunset Lane entrance of North Chagrin Reservation, off SOM Center Road/Route 91 in Mayfield Village. For more information, call 440-473-3370.

Garlic mustard: Salad days for an invasive plant

Washington Post article about garlic mustard (Alliaria petiolata):

Garlic-mustard, not a deli condiment

Garlic mustard flowersApril will soon be here, bringing the colors and fragrance of spring flowers, but also the unwelcome annual bloom of garlic mustard. While its name may sound like a spicy condiment, garlic mustard is actually one of Ohio’s worst invasive weeds.

Native to Europe and Asia, garlic mustard (Alliaria petiolata) was introduced into New York in the 1860s and spread rapidly. It is now abundant in the northeastern and central U.S., including Ohio. It tends to move in initially along rivers, roads and trails and then spread out from there. The seeds may be carried in bits of mud on people’s shoes, as well as by floodwaters and roadway mowing equipment.

Garlic mustard grows in a wide range of habitats but especially thrives in moist, shady woodlands, where it crowds out native wildflowers. Producing up to 800 seeds per plant, yielding as many as 1800 seedlings per square foot of ground, it quickly forms dense patches. Once it arrives, a diverse forest understory can quickly become a solid stand of garlic mustard. It has few natural enemies in North America; even the deer won’t eat it. Garlic mustard also contains chemicals that suppress the fungal partners (called mycorrhizae) that most plants—but not garlic mustard—depend on to help them absorb water and minerals from the soil. These chemicals even suppress everyone’s favorite spring mushroom, Morels.

Garlic mustard basal rosettesGarlic mustard is a biennial. It spends its first year as a low-growing rosette of yellowish-green, wrinkly-veiny leaves. The following spring, the stems rapidly lengthen and produce clusters of small, white, cross-shaped flowers. The flower clusters are initially flat-topped but become elongate as the shoot continues to grow. The flowers develop into narrowly cylindrical green fruits, which eventually turn brown and release their seeds, after which the plant dies. Garlic mustard is easily distinguished by its kidney-shaped to triangular, prominently veiny leaves with a garlicky odor when crushed.

Garlic mustard fruitIt is important to watch for garlic mustard and remove it as soon as it colonizes a site. Small patches can easily be pulled up by hand, and a weed-whip is helpful with larger infestations. However, this treatment must be repeated annually because the seeds may remain viable in the soil for five to ten years. Plants should ideally be pulled up or cut at ground level before or shortly after they start flowering. If the fruits have already started to form, then either the pulled plants should be bagged and removed or the fruits should be removed from each plant as it is pulled up. Fruits that are left attached to the plant sometimes continue development and release seeds even though the root is no longer in the ground. Larger populations may require the assistance of chemical herbicides.

Additional information about the ID and control of garlic mustard can be found in this OSU-E garlic mustard factsheet or watching this video by our partners in West Virginia.

 Additional questions can be answered by contacting Eric Boyda at or 740-534-6578. Article written by Phil Cantino.