Be a FLOW citizen scientist!

You can be a FLOW citizen scientist with just your smart phone and an iNaturalist account!

iNaturalist observations allow anyone to identify and share their observations of living things – animals, plants, fungi, and more.

We have added the Lower Olentangy Watershed as a “place” in iNaturalist, so any of your observations with coordinates within the watershed will automatically appear under that listing, helping us better determine the diversity of species in the watershed. It doesn’t have to be an unusual or rare species to be of interest.

You can search for Lower Olentangy Watershed or even Olentangy and see what wonders your watershed holds!

Upload your nature photo(s) to your iNaturalist account (it’s free!) and the site will offer suggestions to help you identify what you are looking at, and other users actively reach out and help confirm many of your identifications. The more detailed the photo the better, and you can add multiple photos of the same plant or animal.

Garlic Mustard: A Destructive Yet Delectable Invasive

What is it?

Garlic mustard photo

Young garlic mustard. Photo from nps.gov.

You probably know garlic mustard even if you don’t know you know it. Odds are, it has invaded forest areas near you as it has much of the midwest. Garlic mustard, Jack-In-the-Bush, or Alliaria petiolata is a non-native understory invasive plant in North America. Garlic mustard was brought to the Americas nearly two hundred years ago from Europe as a medicinal and culinary herb. Today, it can be found in nearly every county of Ohio.

Crushed garlic mustard leaves have a distinct garlic-y smell, giving the plant one of its names. Its scent is one way to identify the plant. Otherwise, garlic mustard is a biennial (it has a two-year life cycle) and looks different based on its life stage. First-year garlic mustard grows in rosettes close to the ground. Young leaves are round or have kidney shapes and often have purple stems. In its second year, garlic mustard is easier to identify and grows up to three or four feet. It has triangular, heart-shaped leaves with toothed edges. Garlic mustard’s flower is white and four-petaled. To learn more, check out this online resource from the Ohio Invasive Plants Council.

Why is it a problem?

Non-natives follow the “Tens Rule,” meaning that one in ten non-native species will become established in their new environment, but only one in ten of those established species will become invasive. Those few invasive species pack a big punch. Like all non-native invasives, garlic mustard wreaks havoc by out-competing native plants in foreign locations with no natural controls. For instance, our growing deer population does not eat garlic mustard because deer did not evolve and adapt to eat it. This means native understory plants are eaten by deer when garlic mustard continues to spread. Native food-webs and ecosystems are thrown out of balance by invasives like garlic mustard.

Garlic mustard flower

Mature garlic mustard. Photo from nps.gov.

One garlic mustard plant can release thousands of seeds that will remain viable in the environment for up to seven years. This makes it easier for garlic mustard to spread and overwhelm an area, decreasing its biodiversity and health. Most commonly, the plant thrives in forest and edge habitats. Garlic mustard sprouts earlier in the spring than most native species. When native species eventually emerge, garlic mustard blocks sunlight making it more difficult for natives like our beautiful wildflowers to grow. Garlic mustard is particularly damaging because it secretes a compound called sinigrin into the soil that destroys fungal networks that support native species. This makes it even more difficult for resident native plants to thwart the invasive and lessens native plant’s biotic resistance.

Garlic mustard has transformed our natural ecosystems. It can out-compete tree seedlings which halts the recovery of forests. Garlic mustard alters the habitat of mollusks and salamanders, threatening their survival. The West Virginia White Butterfly is particularly endangered by garlic mustard. The butterfly lays its eggs on the plant because it secretes chemicals similar to the butterfly’s host plants. In reality, this is just a disguise as garlic mustard is toxic to the butterfly.

What to do about it?

Removing garlic mustard requires time and vigilance. Because garlic mustard seeds last in the environment, it can take nearly seven years to exhaust the seed bank. Nonetheless, we can all try to fight back against this invasive plant. Garlic mustard can be mechanically removed via pulling and cutting in your yard and local areas. Some chemical solutions exist and even biological controls are being explored. Here, we will focus on mechanical controls. To pull garlic mustard, pull from the base of the stem to remove the entire root system. Try to pull the weed before it seeds. In large infestations, it may be more manageable to cut garlic mustard close to the ground. Either way, be sure to bag and throw out your pulled or cut plants rather than composting them or leaving them at the site, as this will only continue to spread the seeds.

garlic mustard pesto

Garlic Mustard Pesto. Photo by Yossy Arefi. https://food52.com/recipes/28281-garlic-mustard-pesto

Or, rather than sending the weeds to a landfill, you can eat them as the Europeans intended! Garlic mustard is a tasty and nutritious plant that is an excellent source of vitamin C. Garlic mustard can be added to salads, made into pesto, and much more. You can find a collection of various recipes here. Garlic mustard should be harvested when young because older plants are more bitter and contain cyanide so therefore must be cooked thoroughly. Garlic mustard shoots are similar to garlic scapes and snap peas while the plant’s roots taste like horseradish. To quote the USDA, let’s eat it to beat it!

This spring, an Americorps team joining FLOW will be removing garlic mustard from the Sawmill Wetlands, the Stratford Ecological Preserve, and the Methodist Theological School of Ohio to combat the spread of the invasive non-native species in the Olentangy watershed. To learn about other invasive species in Ohio and what is being done to control them, check out FLOW’s website or the Ohio Invasive Plants Council’s website.

Cover photo: FLOW volunteer pulling garlic mustard at Sawmill Wetlands (pre-COVID). 

FLOW Autumn 2020 Volunteer: Lindalee Brownstein

Lindalee has been a FLOW volunteer since 2011. She has served on the board, has volunteered for several projects and has been the newsletter editor for the past 5 years. Linda Lee is also the Arbor Chairman for Old Beechwold, which has a ravine, creek, and woodlands and is a master gardener with a special interest in native plants and woodlands.
Lindalee has a lifelong interest in nature, something learned from her father. As a child, her best toy was the creek behind her house.
Lindalee also volunteers for Gethsemane Lutheran Church helping the elderly and families in need.
We so appreciate all the work Lindalee has done with FLOW and the watershed.

May Volunteer of the Month: Joe Bevan

Our volunteer for the month of May is Joe Bevan!

Joe started volunteering with FLOW senior year of high school in the Water Quality Monitoring Program.  He has continued to volunteer with FLOW on many different projects throughout the years. Joe was critical in assisting FLOW with creating the Lower Olentangy Greenspace Plan.

Joe says he volunteers with FLOW for the trees and for the bugs and especially for the people.  If you have had the honor of volunteering with Joe, you know his drive to complete a task, as well as his sense of humor, keeps one motivated when planting hundreds of trees in one morning!

Joe has a Bachelor of Science degree in Environmental Science from The Ohio State University and works at AEP as a GIS Specialist.  

FLOW could not accomplish all we do without great volunteers like Joe! 

March Volunteer of the Month: Paul Miller

Paul Miller is our volunteer of the month for March!

Paul has been a consistent volunteer with FLOW  for over a year and is known as our “Chainsaw Guy”. Paul is chainsaw certified and has been integral in our honeysuckle and invasive species removal throughout the Olentangy Watershed.

In addition to his chainsaw skills, Paul has participated in river clean ups, tree plantings and is an active member on FLOW’s Science and Zoning Committee while also assisting with fundraising for our April Earth Day events. 

Paul enjoys volunteering with FLOW in order to get outdoor exercise while doing good for the community and the world. He states he has met some great like minded people and finds the work uplifting and encouraging. 

Paul is a graduate of The Ohio State University with a B.S. in architecture from the department of engineering. He is currently the lead Architect working with the Worthington Schools revitalization project at Schorr Architects. 

Paul enjoys bee keeping, kayaking, hiking, biking and working outside and is also active in the Worthington community with other organizations.

FLOW couldn’t accomplish  all that we do without great volunteers like Paul. Thanks for your passion and dedication!

How to Plant a Tree, and Why

*Article and Photos by Adrien  DeLapp

October 2018, FLOW planted more than 100 trees between a variety of schools, including Gables, Maize, and Salem Elementary as well as Hamilton Stem Academy. Against all odds (cold, rain, and mud) these tree plantings were a success thanks to the efforts of Nisource, the Columbus Young Professionals, and other volunteers.

 The transition from summer to fall is beautiful to witness. During this time of year, the temperature is comfortable and the leaves take on a spectrum of warm hues. However, late August to the end of October is also the optimal time to plant trees. One reason why is that the air is cooler than the soil this time of year. This encourages root growth without top growth, thus young trees are able to develop a sturdy root system before growing upward. Additionally, the moderate temperature and fall rain help the tree to hold in moisture, reduce the risk of it undergoing heat stress, and give it the required support to grow during the spring season. While some trees are easiest to grow in the spring, for many deciduous trees fall is the best time to plant.

    Once a person knows what season to start planting, they’re going to need some tools to prepare. Assuming they’ve got a hole and a tree already, they’ll need a shovel, wire cutters, stakes, a stake pounder, and tree tie. Also, they should make sure that they’ve got 2 or 3 other people helping out, as even the smallest trees can have heavy root balls. The first step FLOW volunteers take when planting trees is removing any plastic ties or sacks on the trunk. Next, volunteers carefully roll the tree into the hole. After that, it’s time to cut the burlap sack covering the root ball. Volunteers use a wire cutter to remove the wire from outside of the sack, then remove the nails holding the sack together. After this, it is safe to bury the burlap sack along with the tree. Once the soil is distributed so as to fill in the hole, it’s time to mulch the tree. It is important to make sure to pull back the soil and mulch from the base of the tree trunk so that the root ball is exposed, as this helps the roots to absorb water and exchange necessary gases with the environment. Now it’s time to stake. Staking is done by pulling a stake pounder over the head and then ramming it over a stake. This is best done using your body weight to propel the pounder unto the stake. It is helpful to use the two stakes to straighten out the tree, if necessary. Finally, the tree should be tied to the stakes. Knots should be tight and wrapped around the grooves in the stakes so as to reduce the risk of the tie slipping. It is recommended that the planter leave extra tie so that there is enough to retie the tree if the knots come undone. Lastly, safely dispose of all waste, including any plastic, extra burlap, wire, or nails. After this process, the first steps have been taken towards planting a tree that will benefit the environment, the neighborhood, and the lives of individuals for years to come.

Five Reasons to Plant a Tree:

  1. Trees Absorb and Release into the Environment

This not only helps people to breathe, but in the long run, helps to combat climate change.

  1. Trees Improve Air and Water Quality

Trees absorb pollutants in the air and reduce runoff. Trees also reduce evaporation on shady lawns and release moisture into the air.

  1. Trees Reduce the Temperature

This helps keep the city cool on hot summer days and decreases the amount of energy used on air conditioning.

  1. Trees Increase Property Values

Trees can increase the property value of a neighborhood and attract business traffic.

  1. Trees Improve Health

It has been proven that trees help sick or injured people to heal. Trees are also good for mental health and well-being and help to reduce violence.

Happy Planting,

FLOW