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. In this article, we synthesize the current state of knowledge on the mechanisms underlying garlic mustard's widespread success and the ecological impacts of its invasion. Although no single mechanism appears to explain the success of garlic mustard, a combination of plant traits—all slightly different from those of native plants—seems to confer garlic mustard with tremendous success in the new habitats it invades. The domination of this new species in eastern forests is clearly changing the ecology of these systems. The consequences of garlic mustard invasion include the loss of biological diversity, ripple effects through higher trophic levels, and changes in the function of soil microbial communities.
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Vol. 58 • No. 5