Garlic Mustard: An Edible Invasive

Garlic Mustard plant

Garlic mustard is a very tenacious and abundant terrestrial invasive plant in the Twin Cities area parks and forests of Minnesota.

It was brought over from Europe by settlers as a food crop which then escaped into our forests in the United States. Wildlife does not like to eat it. The roots taste like a mild horseradish.

Garlic mustard season can start as early as March or April beginning with the rosettes. You can harvest any leaf, flower, seed pod or root and serve it raw or cooked.  Think of this herb as you would spinach as far as cooking or eating raw.  You can use the herb as a substitute for garlic or as an additional green in any salad where greens are welcome.  A recipe suggestion is at this link. The younger the leaf, seed, or flower the better it will taste. Older, larger leaves can taste bitter. If you harvest from one spot in the spring, you can return for new rosettes from July until frost.

The basal rosette of Garlic Mustard

Garlic mustard is very easy to identify in its mature phase.  Look for heart shaped leaves and white petals in clusters of four.  In the rosette stage, you will want to make sure you are not pulling common blue violet (or any violet for that matter) instead.  It will not poison you, but this is a beautiful native flower that sustains wildlife not to mention being pleasing to the eye.

blue violet rosette
The leaves of Common Blue Violet, not to be confused with Garlic Mustard.

As a side note, plants in the mustard family can absorb heavy metals into their system so you will want to be careful not to harvest plants for eating near train tracks and roadsides or any other areas heavy metals may have been used.  If you come across wilted or deformed plants, this is a sign it has probably been treated with herbicide.  You will want to avoid that area also.  Please obtain permission from the owner of the land before harvesting. You will want to be especially careful if you are harvesting the seeds as you do not want to spread this plant inadvertently.  I suggest keeping it in a tightly weaved enclosed mesh bag (like burlap) or an envelope.  If you are collecting in plastic, you will want to remove it right away when you return home to prevent wilting.❖

Garlic mustard flowers and seed pod
The seed pods forming as the new flowers continue to open.

Garlic Mustard Pesto

Ingredients: 11 cups lightly packed garlic mustard leaves and tips, loosely chopped
1/4 cup pine nuts
1 garlic clove
1/3 cup grated parmesan cheese
1 cup extra virgin olive oil
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon sugar
2 squeezes lemon juice

Pesto jar

Directions: 1) In a blender, grind the garlic, pine nuts and parmesan.
2) Add the garlic mustard.
3) While blending, pour in a steady stream of the olive oil for 1 minutes, or until smooth.
4) Add salt, sugar, lemon juice and pulse until mixed.

Text by Cheryl Batson
Pesto photo by Slow Living Kitchen
All other photos - G D Bebeau
Garlic Mustard fact sheet

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Letter from the President

Great Horned Owl
The Great Horned Owl posing for a photo during the bird count. Photo Jennifer Olson.

Dear Friends,

We celebrated our volunteers, October 30 at Lake of the Isles Lutheran Church with 60 people in attendance. We honored our retiring Board Members: Sally and Steve Pundt, Lauren Husting and Kathy Connelly. We enjoyed good food and conversations plus a fun raffle.

Although the Garden is closed during the winter, birding is year-round.  On Sunday, December 18, 2022, an Audubon Winter Bird Count, nationally referred to as the Audubon Christmas Bird Count, happened at Wirth Park, part of the Minneapolis Western Circle.  My group of 4 headed north of Highway 55 along Bassett Creek. We saw 78 birds of 17 species. My highlights were a kingfisher near Plymouth Bridge and a perched Great Horned Owl, 5 feet off the ground, 15 feet from us. Not too far from the owl, we spotted the owl’s left-wing imprint, made when it flew into the snow for a kill.  We returned to the Pavilion and enjoyed a potluck lunch. It was truly a community event!

The first Audubon Christmas Bird Count held in Wirth Park was in 1952.  Mr. J.S. Futcher, one of our Friends’ members participated and was responsible for filing the report to Audubon National: 30 participants, 495 birds and 22 species including a golden-crowned kinglet and a titmouse. Mr. Futcher’s comments on our 2022 Winter Bird Count were:
“we would of never seen wild turkey, a house finch or a Canada goose; and no bald eagles.”


Eloise noticed the birds too and wrote on April 12, 1916:
“saw numbers of flickers, yellow bellied sapsuckers, ruby-crowned kinglets, phoebe, red-winged blackbirds, song sparrows, myrtle warblers, chickadees, brown creepers. Caught a glimpse of the imported pheasant and the kingfishers.”

Below: The mark of an owl wing in the snow - possible prey capture. Photo Jennifer Olson.

 Owl wing mark in the snow

In the October 1969 Fringed Gentian™ it was written that “the title of the Garden had changed to the Eloise Butler Wild Flower and Bird Sanctuary. It was met with great enthusiasm.” In 1986, MPRB changed the name to Eloise Butler Wildflower Garden and Bird Sanctuary.


Late fall and winter are also busy times for the perimeter around the Garden. Together Garden Curator, Susan Wilkins and FIPAG co-chair, Jim Proctor have been leaders to reduce the buckthorn and garlic mustard outside the perimeter of the Garden. Legacy stewards and FIPAG volunteers have worked hard to eliminate these plants resulting in more native plants thriving. In November FIPAG volunteers planted cuttings from elderberry bushes growing elsewhere in Wirth Park. Jim is discovering “winter weeding” where one can easily pull small buckthorn after the leaves have dropped.  At the end of January, he did “snow sowing,” by sprinkling wildflower seed mixes on the snow. The sun will melt the top of the snow, the seeds will migrate towards the ground, and hopefully in spring will germinate.  The Garden is awesome, but the perimeter is amazing too.  Check out the Maple Bowl.


Below: Members of the FIPAG crew clearing Buckthorn in October 2022. Photo Bob Ambler.

 FIPAG crew working with buckthorn

The Garden opens in April and will begin its 117th season with migrating warblers and early ephemeral blooms welcoming us. Birding is a Garden tradition too; the Early Birders will return on Saturdays in April.  All are welcome.  
See you in the Garden


Archive of previous President's Letters.

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Garden Curator's Notes

Susan Wilkins' comments appear courtesy of the MPRB.

Celebrating and Counting Birds in the Winter

Cooper's Hawk

On a sunny and cold December Sunday, 65 community members ventured outside to participate in the first official Audubon Winter (Christmas) Bird Count in the Minneapolis West Circle in 60 years!

Audubon designates 15-mile diameter circle-shaped areas for counts throughout the US, some of which have been actively counted for decades. This annual, nation-wide bird count is the longest standing community-science bird project in the country. https://www.audubon.org/conservation/science/christmas-bird-count

In the Minneapolis West circle, 4,369 birds were counted on Sunday, December 18 representing 38 bird species! There were two additional species counted during count week. The Minneapolis West circle includes a diverse array of urban habitats for birds. Even a cold day in December did not disappoint in terms of the diversity of species seen and the number of birds counted.

Re-igniting interest in this project and reviving the Minneapolis West circle area for the count is all thanks to the vision and dedication of the Urban Bird Collective (UBC). UBC’s leadership team for this effort, Monica Bryand and Jane Shallow, worked together with the Loppet Foundation and Garden Curator Susan Wilkins to plan and organize this very successful event. Almost 30 of the participants this year are community members and bird watchers who are involved with UBC. UBC helps create safe and welcoming spaces for birdwatchers of all levels and is focused on BIPOC and LGBTQIA+ communities. Read more here.  

A heart-felt thank you to Monica Bryand (UBC) for her vision and leadership to revive the bird count for this area and to bring a focus of inclusivity to the count for the BIPOC and LBQTIA+ birding community.

A special thanks to Ari Kim and Jane Shallow (UBC) who shared their expertise and developed the section maps for the count, an essential tool for an effective and efficient counting effort and a significant task.

Three additional community organizations were involved in this first count including the Cedar Lake Park Association, the Friends of Roberts Bird Sanctuary, and the Friends of the Wild Flower Garden. Several dedicated and knowledgeable volunteers from these organizations and from the community organized small groups to bird in park and natural areas in Minneapolis and mapped out areas ahead of time in coordination with the circle count leader, Garden Curator Susan Wilkins. Other community members assisted with providing refreshments for participants. A special thank you to Stephen Greenfield, Constance Pepin, Mark Schmidt, Keith Prussing, Jennifer Olson, Bruce Jarvis, Chris Swanson, Rod Miller, and Kurt Fisher for their efforts.

bird count tally
A northern shrike seen distantly, one of 4 spotted in the bird count. Photo - Chris Swanson.

Garden staff Tammy Mercer, Jodi Gustafson and Kimberly Ishkov shared their expertise and assisted the organizing team with facilitation of the count on the day of the event. Thank you.

Thank you to the Loppet Foundation for supporting this event in tandem with the Minneapolis Park & Recreation Board.

It was a great day for the birds, for community-science, and for participants.

Thank you again to everyone involved in this community-centric effort to support community science and nature. Stay tuned for more information about the next Winter Bird Count in December 2023.

Enjoy these fleeting days of autumn and may you find moments to touch down deeply with nature in your everyday lives in the season ahead.

This file photo of the Northern Shrike shows the plumage which is difficult to see in the small photo. Photo - Paul J. Hurtado.

Northern Shrike

Read her previous letters here.

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Special Spring Delights

Rare, Endangered, Deceiving, and Special Plants in the Wildflower Garden

I am often asked when one can derive the most benefit or pleasure from a visit to the wild garden. Every week, from April through October, presents new attractions. Eloise Butler

The Eloise Butler Wildflower Garden and Bird Sanctuary provides protection for rare spring wildflowers and other wildflowers that delight and sometimes deceive the eye.

Twinleaf blooming along the path to the Shelter.
Seed Capsule
Twinleaf seed capsule

The Twinleaf (Jeffersonia diphylla, named for Thomas Jefferson) is delightful for the striking white flower above a leaf with paired leaflets. Don’t miss the unique seed capsule that after flowering forms into the shape of an upright capsule with a lid on top that pops open when the seeds are mature. In Minnesota Twinleaf is found only in secluded valleys in the SE corner of the state. The plants on the path to the Garden Shelter have likely been growing in the same area since they were first planted many decades ago.

Two other rarities, both endangered in the wild, are Goldenseal and the Dwarf Troutlily. Each Goldenseal (Hydrastis canadensis) stem produces only a single flower in the spring which matures into a cluster of red berries resembling raspberries. The foliage is a striking dark green.


The Minnesota Dwarf Troutlily (Erythronium propullans) is easily mistaken for the White Troutlily. E. albidum, when not in flower. Look for a much smaller flower and leaf and 5 tepals (sepal and petal combined) not the 6 of the White or of the Yellow Trout Lily. In Minnesota the White is restricted to just a few counties in the State while the Dwarf’s only wild habitat in the world is in secluded ravines of 3 southern Minnesota counties.

MN Drarf Troutlily
Minnesota Dwarf Troutlily
White Trout Lily
White Troutlily

False Rue Anemone
False Rue Anemone. Enemion biternatum

A deceiving group of spring flowers are the anemones of the buttercup family. Many buttercups do not have flower petals. In this case the sepal, which is usually the outer covering of the flower bud and forming the calyx of a flower, turns color and tricks the viewer into thinking it is a petal forming the corolla of the flower. To further confuse, the flowers seem to look alike.

The False Rue Anemone, one of the earliest spring white flowers in the Garden has flower stems rising from the axils of deeply lobed leaves while the Rue Anemone, white to pink, has flower stems rising from a whorl of not-so-deeply lobed leaf-like bracts that form at the top of the stem. The Wood Anemone also has deeply lobed bracts forming a whorl around the base of the flower stalk but look carefully, there are no true leaves on the flower stem - it rises between the whorl from the root.

Wood Anemone
Wood Anemone. Anemone quinquefolia
Rue Anemone
Rue Anemone. Thalictrum thalictroides

A close inspection is necessary to identify this next pair of deceivers - two trilliums - Toadshade (Trillium sessile) and Sweet Betsy (Trillium cuneatum).

Toadshade: Bracts are up to 3 inches long with a tapered base.

Both have large bracts mottled with dark green or brown and upright purple flower petals. Size is the difference. Toadshade’s flower petals are about 1.5 inches high with narrowed bases. The bracts are to 3 inches long with a tapered base. Sweet Betsy has flower petals to 3 inches high with wedge bases and the bracts are to 6 inches long with a wedge base. There are also more detailed differences in the petals, stamens and odor.

Sweet Betsy flower
Toadshade flower is to 1.5 inches high
Sweet Betsy (shown here) is to 3 inches high.

Sweet Betsy
Sweet Betsy: Bracts are up to 6 inches long with a wedge base.

Consult the links on the flower names to go to the Friends website for more detailed information on each of these wildflowers. The plants reviewed here do not bloom at the same time and annual weather changes affect spring bloom time from year to year. ❖

Article and Photos by Gary Bebeau, Friends board member

The Eloise Butler quotation is taken from her 1914 letter to Theodore Wirth.

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This Spring
Visit the Wilder Bird Sanctuary

By Constance Pepin

Scarlet Tanager

As most birdwatchers in our region know, several miles south of the Eloise Butler Wildflower Garden & Bird Sanctuary in Wirth Park is the other bird sanctuary in Minneapolis, the Thomas Sadler Roberts Bird Sanctuary in Lyndale Park.

This undeveloped natural area is also named to honor an important historical figure and provides critical habitat within the Chain of Lakes Important Bird Area. Roberts is located just north of Lake Harriet, between Lyndale Gardens and the bandshell. The main entrance to the sanctuary is through a rustic visitors shelter adjacent to the Peace Garden parking lot.

Like all of Minneapolis, both bird sanctuaries are on the sacred homeland of Dakota Peoples, who were residents and stewards of this land for millennia before the arrival of white settlers. The Dakota land near the southeast shore of Bde Maka Ska that became Lakewood Cemetery included the site of Heyata Otunwe (Cloud Man Village), an agricultural community formed in 1829 and abandoned 10 years later after a conflict between the Ojibwe and Dakota nations.

Great Horned Owl in tree
Great-Horned Owl. Photo Nadia Hoffman

In 1890, Lakewood Cemetery donated 35 acres of land to the Park Board that became Lyndale Park, including 31 acres along the cemetery’s current southern border that the Park Board formally established as a bird sanctuary in 1936. Members of the Minneapolis Audubon Society (MAS) have led guided walks in this bird sanctuary for over 100 years. At MAS’ request the sanctuary was renamed in 1947 to honor Dr. Thomas Sadler Roberts, considered the father of Minnesota Ornithology.

Dr. Roberts was born in 1858 and moved with his family to Minneapolis as a boy. He explored the oak woods, tamarack swamps and prairies that surrounded the town, and roamed the lakeshores of Harriet and then Calhoun. A collection of Minnesota birds that he started as a teenager eventually became the foundation of Minnesota’s ornithological specimens.

White-tailed deer
White-tailed Deer. Photo Nadia Hoffman

In 1915, Roberts ended his successful medical practice and became “associate curator” of the Natural History Museum at the University of Minnesota, which later became the Bell Museum. Eventually, Roberts fulfilled his lifelong dream and wrote The Birds of Minnesota, a landmark book that remains an unparalleled compilation of data on the state’s birds. A Love Affair with Birds, a biography of Roberts by Minnesota author Sue Leaf, was published in 2014.

Twice as large in acreage as the Garden, most of Roberts Bird Sanctuary is designated wetland. The main trail is Bossen Lane, an unpaved narrow road that extends from the Peace Garden to the Lake Harriet bandshell, following the route of an old bridle path. Other trails go through two Sugar Maple forests cleared of buckthorn by dedicated volunteers.

People can visit Roberts Bird Sanctuary year round. The best times for birding are during spring and fall migration, when many species of birds stop in the Sanctuary during their epic journeys to and from their breeding grounds. During spring migration, expert birders offer guided walks on Tuesday and Saturday mornings. In May of 2022, the eBird list of one of many birders who frequent Roberts included 63 species in the Sanctuary and nearby Lake Harriet, including 22 species of warblers—possibly the most ever documented on these walks! ❖

Constance Pepin is a long-time volunteer at Eloise Butler Wildflower Garden and co-founder and Board member of Friends of Roberts Bird Sanctuary, which works to protect, preserve, and enhance the Sanctuary as a thriving, undeveloped habitat and sanctuary for birds and other wildlife.

Photo at top of article of Scarlet Tanager by Ryan O'Conner.

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Notes For and About Our Donors and Volunteers

24,000 Garden Connections in 2022

FIPAG volunteers
Last October the Friends Invasive Plant Action Group (FIPAG) completed its 16th year of removing invasives from around the Garden. The buckthorn crew celebrates the completion of last year’s work in this photo by Bob Ambler.

More than 3,000 visitors attended free Garden Naturalist programs:
Garden Storytime: 1,206
Early Birders: 532
Evening Programs: 600

Informal Naturalist’s Pop-up program engaged 2,000 visitors,

12,000 visitor interactions with naturalists in the Shelter.

Welcome Kiosk docent Volunteers greeted and assisted 6,850 visitors in the last 2 months of the season.

68 volunteers within the Friends Invasive Plant Action Group and Legacy Stewards invested 325 hours to remove buckthorn, non-native bittersweet, shrub honeysuckle and garlic mustard

3 corporate groups and 45 individuals donated 113.5 hours to trail mulching and field time

Annual Support

New Friends of the past year

Basic: Brenda Daly, Elaine Eschenbacher, Susan Makela, Paul Mielke, Pam Harris.

Sponsor: Barbara Broker, Peggy Korsmo-Kennon, George Lawton, Terryl Ann Pearson

Life: Genevieve Johnson, Donna Schimunek.

Annual Support information about:

1. Becoming an Annual Supporter of the Friends
2. Renewing your Annual Support

Can be found on our Website Support-Us page.

Information on paying by check or by credit card is found there also.

For changes to your mailing address or email address, please contact Christi Bystedt at this email address. or Friends of the Wild Flower Garden, Donor Support, P.O. Box 3793, Minneapolis, MN 55403-0793.

Other 2022 Annual Support updates.

All 2021 Annual Support updates.

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Donations and Memorials Received

Memorials Received
October 2022 to March 2023

for Harriet and Ed Betzold from Barbara Nordley
for Bette Buelow from Joan Haldeman
for Rose Mary Boerboom from Anne Kelly
for Bennett Lauerey Busselman from Nancy & Gary Busselman
for Maureen McElderry from Tery & Steve Haik, Kathy & Fred Glover, Patti Lenarz, Anna & Jason Lindquist, Anne Oslund, Jim Weber, Jill Weir
for Mervyn Palmer from Elizabeth & Eric Burgeson, Ann Hanson, Dorothy Knuckey, Edith Palmer, Donald & Debra Singler
for Bill Walsh from Joan Haldeman
for Barbara Wojcik from Nancy Miller
IHO Johann Brentrup from Ellen Brandt
IHO Elaine Brinda from Marianne Brinda
IHO Bruce Jarvis from John Barber


Other Donations Received - separate from annual support giving
October 2022 to March 2023 from

Elizabeth Anderson, Janet I. and Dean Anderson, Anonymous. Mary Kay Arthur, Candyce Bartol, Barbara Broker, Amie Jo Digatono, Maria Eggemeyer, Elaine Eschenbacher, Meg Forney, Linda Fritschel & Jim Kiehne, Pam Harris, Barbara Hendrickson, Marjorie Huebner & Jeff Nygaard, Bruce & Alison Jarvis, Sandi Knolls, Peggy Korsmo-Kennon, Elizabeth Kreibich, Anthony La Plante, Melissa Listman, Janet Mayer, James McBride Jr., Carla & John McCellan, Heather McQueen, Michael Menzel, & Kathryn Iverson, Jeremy Nichols & Evelyn Turner, Jennifer Olson, Win & Binky Rockwell, Kathryn Sedo & Scott Beers, Elizabeth & Stephen Shaffer DAF, Sandra Tekman, Susan Warde.

All 2022 donations and memorials

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Other means of Support

Want to honor someone?

A gift in their honor can simply be a means of honoring a living person or some group


use this as an alternate type gift for a holiday, a birthday, an anniversary, etc. We will notify them of your gift and of how they will receive our newsletter and other communications for the year ahead. This will introduce them to the Friends and to the Garden. Use the mail-in form or the credit card link on our website 'support us' page.

Board of directors positions

The Friends Board of Directors can use your talents! We are an all-volunteer board that meets several time per year and if you have an interest in the Wildflower Garden and in helping support it and our mission of educating the public about the Garden and the natural world get more details by sending an email to to our president at this address.

You can also support our program by buying a plant identification book and note cards.

book coverDo you have our Plant Identification Guide? The 3rd edition has 1,950 photos of the 787 flowering plants, trees and the ferns of the Eloise Butler Wildflower Garden including many that are of historic interest. Three hundred of these books have been sold, so why not get yours!

From a buyer in New Hampshire: What a terrific collection of photos. I’m sure this guide will be a great compliment to other guides I have. From Minnesota: I love the book and will cherish it for many years to come. Credit card order or use the mail order form, both on our website here.

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Sign up for Twigs & Branches: A monthly email update from the Friends containing news from the Garden and relevant MPRB projects, as well as access to website content featuring short articles from our Board and membership. These articles are written to highlight connections of the plants, history and lore of the Eloise Butler Wildflower Garden with different time frames or outside events.

If you already are signed up for our emails, you should be getting these. If you are not here's the link to the sign-up form. The form also allows you to sign up for our Fringed Gentian™ announcements and for the Friends Invasive Plant Action Group's emails.

Sign-up Form

Looking Back 70 Years

Old Garden Office in 1953

A late winter scene

The Garden office, in deep snow 70 years ago on March 12th 1953, sitting midway between the gate and the wetland, on the plateau where it was build 38 years previously. It served for another 17 years until the Friends funded and contracted for a new shelter and named it in honor of Martha E. Crone, the Garden’s second Curator. Photo by Martha Crone.

©2023 Friends of the Wild Flower Garden, Inc. www.friendsofthewildflowergarden.org.
Non-commercial reproduction of this material is allowed without prior permission but only with the acknowledgment to Friends of the Wild Flower Garden, Inc., the author and the photographer.