Dame’s Rocket

It seems that whenever I search for flowering plants to photograph I find myself having to “man up” and admit that I’m fond of aliens. The blooms of Wild Domestic Apple, Autumn Olive, Black Locust and, now, Dame’s Rocket, have all been impressive — and not one of these plants is native to this area.

Dame’s Rocket (Hesperis matronalis; Mustard family) is everywhere now, especially on disturbed sites with moist soils – abandoned fields, forest openings and edges, the neglected borders of lawns, etc. Native to Eurasia and introduced over 200 years ago, it is now widely distributed across most of North America. Extensive, nearly pure stands are common and, in late spring, a dominant landscape feature.

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A naturalized stand of Dame’s Rocket, showing the wide range of flower colors typical of the species

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A nearly pure stand of Dame’s Rocket on the moist floodplain of a small stream

Dame’s Rocket is easily mistaken for a garden Phlox. An alternate leaf arrangement and 4 petals distinguish it from this plant group, which has opposite leaves and 5 petals.

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The Forest Invasive Plants Resource Center is keeping a watchful eye on the spreading Dame’s Rocket, monitoring the “invasion” to determine threats to native flora and fauna.  I monitor Dame’s Rocket for it’s natural beauty and, more importantly, the impressive array of colorful wildlife species that are attracted to the prolific, fragrant bloom.

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Giant Swallowtail nectaring on Dame’s Rocket, 9June14; an unusual, if not rare, sighting in the Northeast

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Flower Spider, an ambush predator, on Dame’s Rocket

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Tiger Swallowtail nectaring on Dame’s Rocket

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Photos by NB Hunter. © All Rights Reserved.

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9 thoughts on “Dame’s Rocket

    • Agree. My comments might have been misleading because I attempt to approach the invasive species debate as objectively as possible, weighing attributes against threats before judging. E.g.: we’re being overrun with an invasive biennial herb that I place in the noxious weed group and would like to obliterate. Garlic Mustard (Alliaria petiolata) is the culprit, and it’s successfully competing against many native plants in the understory, including wildflowers. To make matters worse, it produces compounds that make it unpalatable to herbivores – I’ve never seen a browsed plant. It is extremely difficult to control, to the point that plant parts remain viable even after it is pulled and tossed onto a compost pile.

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