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Wisconsin Plant of the Week

Hesperis matronalis L.

Brassicaceae (Mustard Family)

Common Name:

dame’s rocket


Dame’s rocket is a common garden flower, about 1 m tall, that’s escaped cultivation and has become locally abundant in fields, rich open woods and lowlands. Although not much is known about its effects on natural communities, Dame’s Rocket appears to compete successfully with native species and is considered ecologically invasive.

Frgrant purple, pink or white flowers, 15 to 20 mm across, bloom from May through June in large clusters.  The stamens and style are mostly concealed in the flower tube, but like all species in the mustard family there are 6 stamens -- 4 long and 2 short.  Also like all the mustards there are 4 petals, bent at the middle to form a cross.

The fruit is a slender capsule up to 14 cm long and constricted between the large (3 to 4 mm) seeds.

Dame’s rocket is a biennial or short-lived perennial.  The first year leaves form a basal rosette that overwinters before the flowering stem grows the next spring.  Leaves are simple and lance-shaped with toothed edges.  The leaves get smaller going up the flowering stem and are attached to the stem either directly (sessile) or with a very short stalk (petiole).  Both the stem and the leaves have fine hairs.

Dame’s rocket is most often confused with phlox, another common garden flower.  Phlox has 5 petals and its leaves are opposite with smooth edges.

Click here for more on the species and a discussion of control methods: WDNR Invasive Species Fact sheet

  • Origin of the name: Hesperis, Gr., hespero, western or evening, may refer to the Greek name for the species known from Italy, i.e. to the west, or to the tendency for the fragrance to increase at dusk; matronalis, L. of married women; The Roman matronal festival coincided with its blooming each spring.
  • Range:  native to Eurasia; now also throughout most of N. Amer. south to CA, AR, GA
  • WI Range:  Most common in south and east WI, but occurs statewide
  • Common associates: Box elder, Elms, Burdock, Orchard grass
  • Wetland Indicator Status: UPL
  • Coefficient of Conservatism: C = * (S&W), C = * (MI)
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