One morning this spring, I found myself in an urban woodland oasis along Rice Creek. The sky was dark and heavy with threats of rain, but I could not be concerned with such things; I was on a mission.
In past years I might have sought out this sanctuary for its native spring ephemerals as the creek’s banks are flush with jack-in-the-pulpits, violets, bloodroot, columbine and early meadow rue. That day, however, I was on the hunt for their nemesis… garlic mustard. From the neighborhood above, phalanxes of this culinary weed have marched down the ravine slopes conquering all forest undergrowth while advancing on the delicate ecosystem near the creek’s edge. Quickly growing to several times the height of most of the area’s native plants, garlic mustard shades out nearly all undergrowth, overcoming the forest floor in less than a decade.
As I bent to collect the fragrant herbs for use on a new collagraph plate, my thoughts were as heavy as the threatening clouds above. Soon, from the ravine crest to the babbling water below there would be no violets nor columbine.
The sky broke. Fat raindrops collided with outstretched leaves sending the understory into an energetic dance. I gathered my collection and made my way out of the creek valley wondering how many springs would pass before this refuge would become a monoculture where nothing but garlic mustard would dance in the rain.