Jack By The Hedge

As a youngster in Leeds, I used to walk to Roundhay Park . On the way there I would suddenly catch the smell of patches of wildflowers by the hedges. They smelled of a mixture of garlic and onion, sweet and not very strong, and you had to cock your head and catch the wind and hunt for it.

It was Jack by the Hedge, a name I have always liked. The Latin name is Alliara petiolata. This particular plant is growing in our garden, unbidden. And it’s possible that in a busy year, in the general course of ‘tidying up’ I would have rooted it out almost before it appeared.

Well maybe, but what I do know is that this lockdown has slowed me down. I am simply appreciating more the things that do things on their own – plants that grow, for example.

One thing I learned now, researching for this short article, is that it is a biennial and in its first year’s growth the leaves are heart shaped. Then in its second year a spike grows in the middle of the plant and the second year leaves are pointy like an arrowhead, with serrated edges.

So, I can conclude that I did not grub it out in previous years, because if I had then it would not be showing second year leaves now. Good for me!

Other names for the plant are Hedge Garlic, Garlic Mustard, Poor Mans Mustard, Penny Hedge, but I like Jack by the Hedge.


  1. Tamara says:

    How interesting about the leaves being different after the first year, David!

    It’s lovely to know more about something right on our “territory” too. I agree with you, I like the name “Jack by the Hedge” best too, but again it’s interesting that one plant should have so many names.

    Pretty photo as well. 🌱


  2. Garlic Mustard Pesto!!!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. And the roots are similar to Horseradish: )


  4. The more useful humankind has found a plant to be, the more Common Names it will have: English: garlic-root; garlicwort; hedge-garlic; Jack-by-the-hedge; Jack-in-the-bush; mustard-root; poor-man’s-mustard; sauce-alone. Spanish: Ajo mostaza; Hierba del ajo. French: Alliaire officinale.
    Portuguese: erva-alheira.
    Germany: Gemeine Knoblauchsrauke. Italy: Alliaria; Erba alliaria.
    Netherlands: Look-zonder-look. Sweden: Loektrav.


    1. The interesting books when I was younger were Culpeper’s Herbal, which you are probably familiar with, and Richard Mabey’s ‘Food For Free’ that you may not know. Mabey’s book is about British flora, so maybe not so useful outside of the UK. It was very popular when everyone was escaping the cities.


      1. David, I can guarantee that you would be AMAZED by all the plants which have made it across the Atlantic; )


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