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north of the adirondacks – wildflowers & perennials that survive winters colder than my wife's feet

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Posted by WiseAcre on May 31st, 2009

Dame’s Rocket

May 31

This wildflower looks like Phlox but it’s easy to tell them apart. Start pulling Dame’s Rocket flower petals with ‘She Loves Me’ and you’ll find ‘She Loves Me Not’ when you get to the last one. Your garden phlox will always love you because it’s odd. Dame’s Rocket has 4 flower petals compared to the 5 of Phlox.

Hesperis matronalis

Dame's Rocket
click image for a larger size (1024 x 768) suitable to use as descktop wallpaper

Dame’s Rocket is an invasive alien wildflower that has escaped from garden settings. No spaceships where involved in their dispersal, it is native to Europe and was brought over to the new world to be used as an ornamental plant. Their aggressive nature is actually a family trait. When it goes to seed Dane’s Rocket gives away it’s family identity. The long seed pods mark it as a member of the mustard family. It is a prolific self seeder and can quickly form dense stands that crowd out native plants.

Dame's Rocket along road

Flower colors range from deep purple, lavender, pink and white. Dame’s Rocket is a fairly common sight along roadsides in St. Lawrence County, NY. These were spotted along the Black Lake Road in the Town of Morristown.

Purple Dame's Rocket

I caution anyone who wants to stop along Black Lake to get a close look, take photos or collect seed to watch where they go. Poison Ivy hides in the unmowed areas along the road.

Dame's Rocket leaves

At one time Dame’s Rocket seeds were included in ‘wildflower’ mixes. Since Dames Rocket is considered a noxious weed by many states I certainly hope they’re no longer added to the mix.

24 Responses

  1. rainfield Says:

    I love the widespread of roadside flowers. They really decorated the neighbourhood.

  2. Heather Says:

    People still plant lots of that around here and I see it creeping into the fields around their homes. I wonder if anyone ever looks at the big picture and sees some things for what they are. Invasive with a capital I.

  3. bangchik Says:

    They really are nice … weeds or wild or invasive…

    ~ bangchik

  4. Helen Says:

    Today, I went for a long walk through one of Toronto’s protected green spaces. In some areas, the size of fields, there there three things growing: Dame’s rocket, garlic mustard and dog-strangling vine. The dame’s rocket at least has the benefit of beauty (and fragrance)… when planted in a garden. We have to be careful what we plant when we’re living next door to nature.

  5. Becky Says:

    Being a sucker for anything that smells good and attracts butterflies, I have this in my garden. I’m even guilty of going out there with a flashlight to get a good whiff of it’s fragrance. Apparently it likes to attract night fliers. Like any prolific seeder it has to be cut back after flowering for the good of everyone

  6. Digital Flower Says:

    Thanks for posting this. I could not remember the name of this flower for the life of me. We actually encourage patches of these flowers to grow at the edge of the gardens. Somebody once gave me some seeds and it was a nice all purple strain. It eventually died out and we are back to the mixed colors.

    Nice photos. BTW. Keep up the good work.

  7. Aiyana Says:

    It’s such a beautiful flower–invasive or not. One of my favorite flowers–Heavenly Blue Morning Glories happens to belong to a banned species in Arizona. Makes me want it more!

  8. cindee Says:

    That is really pretty. I wouldn’t mind it taking over my garden(-:

  9. Lynn Says:

    It sure is lovely for being an alien. There’s another, daintier, pink-purple flower taking over the fields around Ithaca. Almost like a dianthus in shape with 4 or 5 flowers per stem. It makes a hazy cloud in a field and it really gorgeous. It’s not loosestrife, but I’m worried it will be an invader too. Hoping you’ll do a post on it–so far you’ve helped me figure out names for wild things I didn’t know names for, like the horsetail. Thanks a lot!

  10. Ratty Says:

    No matter what the problems with it, they are nice looking little flowers.

  11. Tatyana Says:

    There are so many things in this world that are beautiful but dangerous! This plant has such pretty blooms!

  12. Millie Says:

    Thanks for the post about invasives. We need to be reminded that we should take care about the plants we transport, buy, and transplant to our little corner of the world. It is pretty..and I like the clue about how to tell that it is different than phlox.

  13. Lisa Says:

    I think Dame’s Rocket is beautiful! It smells as good as phlox too, but blooms much earlier. Too bad it has such a bad reputation…I’d love to sow some up here. Maybe it wouldn’t be obnoxious in this climate, many plants aren’t invasive for me when they are elsewhere. I won’t risk being part of the problem though….*sigh*

  14. Bridget @ Bulbblog.com Says:

    Great site and awsome picture – I’m going to try and get some new pictures form my garden this weekend!

  15. Pam Says:

    I live in Walden, Vermont and have large areas of field to work with. I love dames rocket and bought a pound of this seed last summer to add some color to our fields. This year I have ONE dames rocket flower. I am so disappointed. Does any one know why my dames rocket won’t grow? It is certainly not invading our area. My goal is to fill a large area with the purple and white color. I saw a hill side that was covered, and I mean covered with this flower and I think that it is one of the most beautiful spots on earth. I am trying to accomplish the same here.

  16. Marsha Cochran Says:

    I live in Ohio and would love to know of a source that would enable me to plant dames rocket in my wooded ravine – short of stopping by the side of the road and diging it up.



    Sorry I don’t have a source. I’ve never thought about it because Dame’s Rocket is so invasive. I just came back from a hike along the river and where there were small patches of it last year the river bank is now crowded with it. Very pretty but a bit upsetting knowing it’s taking over some native lands.

    I would imagine collecting the seeds is easy.

  17. C H Says:

    It is really nice looking flower, but is extremely invasive. Perhaps some of you do not know but it may very well be illegal to cultivate an invasive plant in your location. People need to take a bit more responsibility with their actions. This is one of the ways native species become extinct.

  18. ines illgen Says:

    I live in Western NC and have both Phlox and Dame’s Rocket, didn’t know DR is invasive, some years I’ve let a large patch go to seed, other years I’ve mowed it down; haven’t had much trouble with it, it’s so easy to control compared to something really viciously invasive like Bittersweet Vine and Kudzu. Both kill bushes, shrubs, huge trees, slow moving people and abandoned houses. At least Kudzu is edible, though. Nothing’s worse than Bittersweet.

  19. flower pictures Says:

    these are very inspiring.. I love them.. thank you for sharing them

  20. Mary White Says:

    I have some in my vegetable garden that have mutated to red and white striped petals. With my brown thumb I am always grateful to have something pretty that actually grows without any help from me.Invasive?Too late, the town is covered with them.

  21. Various pics | Perigrines Eyrie Says:

    […] purpley flowers in my front yard are reportedly Dames Rocket, another weed. Problem is, the leaves on most of the photos I’ve found are attached to the […]

  22. Sally S Says:

    Do the responsible adult thing and do not plant Dames Rocket. There are many wonderful native plants available at nurseries, that support our song birds, butterflies, and native bees. Remember, the starling was brought here from England because it is colorful; the English sparrow, flying carp, kudzu, and mile-a-minute vine–terrible mistakes that can never be corrected. Every field covered with Dames Rocket is territory that does not contain our precious native wildflowers, and the space can only be reclaimed with massive efforts at weeding or repeated spraying of toxic chemicals which kill butterflies, birds, and pollinators. Read “Bringing Nature Home” by Doug Tallamy to find out how you can really make a positive change on the planet and have a beautiful garden. Your garden will be so full of life, you won’t believe it! Wonderful!

  23. Sarah Says:

    Why are you all talking about planting this just because it is pretty when you know it is highly invasive? Ridiculous, find something native and pretty to plant or move to where dames rocket is native if you can’t possibly live without it. You’re messing with entire ecosystems.

  24. Anna Says:

    I kind of winced reading some of the responses. I have only been here 5 minutes and I understand that the preservation of ecosystems is important to you. I hope some will reconsider cultivating these where they don’t belong.