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Dame's Rocket

Common Name: Dame's Rocket.

Scientific Name: Hesperis Matronalis.

What to look for?  An intriguing, towering array of purple flowers rising above the green vegetation of the Spring growth! Dame’s Rocket is a biennial. A basal rosette forms the first year with the flowering stem rising the second year. Dame's Rocket has a tall, erect green stem with branching at the top. The alternate leaves are long, lanceolate, and green. The upper stems terminate in racemes of up to thirty (30) flowers. Each flower consists of 4 rounded petals, 4 linear-lanceolate sepals, several stamens, and a pistil. The petals are bright purplish pink. The sepals are pinkish green. There is a pleasant floral scent that reportedly becomes stronger at night. The flowers are replaced by ascending siliques (narrowly cylindrical seedpods) containing somewhat flattened seeds. The root system consists of a taproot and coarse secondary roots. Dame’s Rocket propagates from seed.

Where can they be found at Carillon Stonegate Pond? This colony of Dame’s Rocket was found in the prairie off the path around the Stonegate West Pond.

How big are they? Dame’s Rocket is typically two (2) to three (3) feet tall. The lanceolate leaves are approximately six (6) inches long and two (2) inches across.

Where do they grow and thrive? Dame’s Rocket was introduced from Europe, escaped from cultivation, and now is naturalized. It has naturalized throughout most of the United States except the Gulf Coast and Arizona and across Canada. Habitats include meadows, woodland edges and openings, thickets, semi-shaded fence rows, banks of ponds and ditches, and vacant lots.

When do they bloom? The blooming period of the Dame’s Rocket usually occurs from late Spring to mid-summer and lasts about 1-2 months.

Do birds, insects or other wildlife associate with this plant? The primary pollinators of the flowers of Dame’s Rocket are butterflies and moths, which feed on the nectar. Other insect visitors include honeybees and a variety of other bees. Information about this plant's relationships to birds and mammals is currently unavailable.

Interesting Facts About the Dame's Rocket:

  • Monet grew Dame's Rocket in his garden at Giverny; and it was a favorite of Marie Antoinette.

  • Genus name comes from the Greek word ‘hespera’ meaning the evening for their evening fragrance.

  • Specific epithet refers to March 1, which was the Roman festival of the matrons (married ladies).

  • It is called the “Flower of Deceit” because, despite its loveliness, there is no fragrance during the day. Come nightfall, however, the flower has a lovely perfume.

  • Other names include Dame's-Violet, Mother-of-the-Evening, and Sweet Rocket.

  • Several states consider Dame’s Rocket to be an invasive weed, including Indiana, Michigan, and Wisconsin as well as Colorado, Connecticut, Maryland, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, Virginia, and West Virginia.

For more information on the Dame’s Rocket and sources of information used in this blog (these are several of the sources that I am using to learn as I blog), please visit Illinois Wildflowers, Minnesota Wildflowers, Missouri Botanical Garden and Friends of the Wildflower Garden.

The Carillon at Stonegate community is very fortunate to have a variety of wetland, forest and prairie environments conducive to a variety of birds and other wildlife, insects and plants. Our community and the Kane County Forest Preserve do an exceptional job in maintaining this natural environment – both for the benefit of the birds and wildlife and for our residents to enjoy.


Take a hike and see what you can find – and identify!

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