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Dame's Rocket Hesperis matronalis


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Dame's Rocket
credit: SB_Johnny/CCSA

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Alternate name: Mother-of-the-evening

Family: Brassicaceae, Mustard view all from this family

Description Habit: introduced biennial or short-lived perennial herb; multiple upright hairy stems rise from thick mound of low foliage and branch at top; taprooted.
Height: 1.3-5 ft (0.4-1.5 m)
Leaf: at base, withered by flowering, ovate to lanceolate, stalked, usually toothed, somewhat rough-hairy, 3-8 in (75-200 mm) long or more; on stem, alternate, becoming smaller, with stalk shorter or absent but not clasping.
Flower: fragrant, 4 oblong petals, lavender to purple to pink to white, 0.5-1 in (12-25 mm) wide; in large terminal cluster, to 12 in (30 cm) tall or more.
Fruit: thin pod, indented between seeds; 2-5.5 in (5-14 cm) long, 0.1 in (2.5 mm) wide.

Flower April to September.

Habitat Roadsides, oak glades, waste areas, bluffs, floodplains, abandoned fields, railways, thickets, woodlands, disturbed sites; to 7200 ft (2200 m); widely cultivated as an ornamental.

Range Native to Europe; introduced to North America as an ornamental in the 17th century; now naturalized throughout North America; not reported in Arizona, Texas, Oklahoma, Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, Florida, South Carolina, or parts of far northern Canada.

Discussion Also known as dame's violet, rocket. Two varieties are recognized. Considered weedy or invasive in some locations; noxious in Colorado, banned in Connecticut, prohibited in Massachusets. Dame's rocket is often confused with phlox, but it has alternate leaves and four petals per flower, while phlox has opposite leaves and five petals.