Hesperis matronalis (Dame's Rocket)

Plant Info
Also known as:
Genus:Hesperis
Family:Brassicaceae (Mustard)
Life cycle:biennial, short-lived perennial
Origin:Europe
Status:
  • Invasive - ERADICATE!
Habitat:part shade, shade, sun; moist woods, woodland edges, meadows, ditches
Bloom season:May - July
Plant height:2 to 4 feet
Wetland Indicator Status:GP: FACU MW: FACU NCNE: FACU
MN county distribution (click map to enlarge):Minnesota county distribution map
National distribution (click map to enlarge):National distribution map

Pick an image for a larger view. See the glossary for icon descriptions.

Detailed Information

Flower: Flower shape: 4-petals Cluster type: panicle Cluster type: raceme

[photo of flowers] Branching clusters in the upper plant and arising from the upper leaf axils. Individual flowers have 4 rounded petals, are ¾ to 1 inch across with 6 pale yellow stamens. The color ranges from white to pink to lavender to deep purple.

[photo of sepals] The sepals are hairy, narrowly oblong, and form a slender tube. A cluster has up to 30 flowers and elongates as the plant mature, with flowers blooming at the top and seed forming below.

Leaves and stem: Leaf attachment: alternate Leaf attachment: basal Leaf type: simple

[photo of leaves] A rosette of stalked basal leaves withers away by flowering time. Stem leaves are up to 5 inches long and 1½ inch wide, tapering to a sharply pointed tip, usually rounded at the base, hairy, with fine teeth around the edges. Leaves near the base of the plant have short stalks but most are stalkless. Leaves become smaller as they ascend the stem. Attachment is alternate. Stems are densely hairy, especialy in the lower plant, and usually branched in the upper plant.

Fruit: Fruit type: capsule/pod

[photo of fruit] Fruit is a thin pod about 4 inches long, spreading to ascending, straight to curved, and containing a single row of seeds. The pod bulges slightly where the seeds are.

Notes:

Dame's Rocket may be confused for a native phlox, but phlox all have 5-petaled flowers where Dame's Rocket has 4 petals. Dame's Rocket is a prolific bloomer and a single plant produces a copious amount of seed. It can form massive colonies, typically setting foot in disturbed soils.

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More photos

Photos by K. Chayka taken in Ramsey County. Photos courtesy Peter M. Dziuk taken in Lac Qui Parle and Washington counties.

Comments

Have you seen this plant in Minnesota, or have any other comments about it?

Posted by: Jim H
on: 2009-06-11 19:44:35

We have this plant on our small farm 2 miles south of Villard, Minnesota in northeastern Pope County. It grows mainly at the edges of the woodlot. This URL shows a photo I made: http://www.flickr.com/photos/podehorn/3618404700/sizes/o/

Posted by: Dustin - Ramsey Mill Pond WMA
on: 2010-05-18 08:50:11

The plant was in full bloom along the walk in access to the Ceder River. There is a lot of it!

Posted by: Kathryn - Woodbury, MN
on: 2010-10-11 14:29:02

I see lots of dame's rocket in the spring along the walkway on Radio Drive, between Lake Road and Cobblestone/Ashford Road.

Posted by: Joyce - Denmark Township (by the Mississippi River)
on: 2011-05-30 20:10:11

We have a lot of these plants in our back yard where we planted a lot of wild flowers (on our mound-septic system). Do we need to remove them?

Posted by: K. Chayka
on: 2011-05-30 21:50:17

Joyce, I'd get rid of them if it were my yard. Dame's rocket is quite invasive

Posted by: Jennifer - Crystal
on: 2014-05-27 21:10:58

I have this in my yard and wasn't sure what it was. Thanks for the information. As pretty as it is, I now know I should get rid of it!

Posted by: DeeDee - Lake City
on: 2014-05-29 10:05:43

We have this growing where a large area was dug up for a new septic system. We weren't sure what it was but now that we know, we will work on getting rid of it as it has spready quite a bit since last year when we first moved in. Great to have good internet sources to turn to for questions.

Posted by: Reg - northeast corner of Traverse county
on: 2014-06-04 20:17:21

There is a small patch of this plant on the edge of the grove of an abandoned farm site next to a cultivated field in the northesast corner of Traverse County. It has bloomed there for several years and has not spread at all.

Posted by: Helen - SW Inver Grove Heights
on: 2014-07-09 05:07:00

I was directed to your website after trying to ID three waist-high flowering plants in an area we are trying to return to "oak savanna." (We have a rather steep hillside that was never plowed.) I'm trying to pull out this and mother wort, as well as keep rooting out burdock, buckthorn, and another new problem bindweed. Good news is that some of our prairie plants are taking hold. I don't know how we got dames rocket, mother wort, and bindweed, unless they might have come free with straw we used to cover oats to hold the hillside after clearing woody plants a few years ago. Thanks for your help.

Posted by: Rose - Cottonwood County
on: 2015-05-20 17:17:00

A very fragrant spring flower; seen frequently in Cottonwood County, especially in ditches or at the edges of groves. Since it is a bi-annual, eradication is theoretically simple: don't let the plants go to seed.

Posted by: Ian - Winona
on: 2015-05-25 12:53:35

5 or 6 stands along US61 across from Lake Winona.

Posted by: David - Dodge Center
on: 2015-06-03 10:17:30

I noticed it this year in my wild flower bed. It is along the road ditches on Co. Rd. H. People are calling it Phlox. The four petals to the flower and leaf structure puzzled me. Your site with pictures is the only site that made it proof positive. It certainly can't be in the same class as burdock,and buckthorn. What is it's problem? It is beautiful, smells good has no thorns.

Posted by: K. Chayka
on: 2015-06-03 12:06:53

David, beauty isn't a factor where it comes to the invasive character of a species. Many invasive plants were brought here for their aesthetic qualities.

Posted by: Sharon - South Haven, Lake Sylvia
on: 2016-04-04 11:45:28

I LOVE it when the Hesperus blooms here! Blooms in the shade or part sun all through the woods and roadside. If it comes up where I don't want it, it's easily pulled out. Our soil is extremely sandy/rocky here, though.

Posted by: K. Chayka
on: 2016-04-04 16:46:58

Sharon, the problem is it won't stay confined to your own property. Seed travels by wind, water and critters and you cannot stop that.

Posted by: Sharon - East Gull Lake (Brainerd) Cass County
on: 2016-05-29 15:48:50

We are in the area hit by the severe storms last July. We lost 50 substantial trees on our 1-acre parcel on Gull Lake. About a week ago, the part of our property that was always left as "wild" erupted in hundreds of Dame's Rocket. Interspersed whites, plus light and dark purples that we have never seen before. Is it possible that this has been growing for many years but because it was in total shade previously it never bloomed? My mom may have planted some 15 - 20 years ago, but has since died so I cannot ask her. Only two of our neighbors have this and they only have very small clumps (4 diameter areas).

Posted by: K. Chayka
on: 2016-05-29 16:12:41

Sharon, there may have been a long-standing seed bank just waiting for such a disturbance to provide enough sun and oxygen to the soil to allow germination. You have your work cut out for you to be rid of it. :-(

Posted by: Sharon G
on: 2016-06-01 15:41:44

Just for the record, I have no intention of getting rid of it. It is in a contained area on about 1/4 acre bordered by our stone driveway and the road. It is magical and 3/4 of the homes that live on our 60 home peninsula have commented how breathtaking it is. I have removed clover, dandelions, thistle and garlic mustard in the same area but will keep this. But with all we lost last year this is a great addition.

Posted by: K. Chayka
on: 2016-06-01 16:03:07

Sharon, you may wish to believe it is contained, but it is not. Seed travels across roads by wind, water and critters. It will move. You should consider planting a native seed mix that will benefit native insects and wildlife, and make up for the habitat that was lost to invasive species. A monoculture of pretty flowers that only benefits humans isn't much to be proud of.

Posted by: anke - New Market Township - very Northeast corner in Scott county
on: 2016-06-03 13:45:50

keep seeing this more and more in my neighborhood Plateau and Pillsbury - Woodland Ridge neighborhood should I yank it out when I see it?

Posted by: K. Chayka
on: 2016-06-06 11:31:14

I would yank it before it consumes any more of the neighborhood.

Posted by: Ronda - Central
on: 2016-06-17 15:55:22

I have always wondered what this plant was. They are soooo beautiful. I sent for seeds and will keep mine forever. Now if you want a plant that will totally take over, do not plant phlox or goats beard. Oh my lord, I have pulled and cut back so many of these and they just keep coming back. They are beautiful, but ohhhh. Also the wood rose, it is a morning glory and Hawaii has banned them forever!

Posted by: K. Chayka
on: 2016-06-17 18:07:22

Nobody ever said dames rocket isn't pretty but that's not really the point. If you spend any time down in Fillmore and Houston counties you'll see just how pretty it is, because it's absolutely everywhere. Worse than garlic mustard :-(

Posted by: Joe S - SW corner near Rowena
on: 2017-03-16 01:07:55

Picked mine up in a ditch near an abandoned cemetery 20 years ago. Has self seeded in garden since. I thin it in the spring, pull them out when done flowering. They act like biannual. You can never get them all which does not make me mad. I have mix of white and shades of purples. Smell is totally intoxicating in the evening, better even than my heirloom nicotiana 4 footers that follow. They can make a tremendous amount of seed if you let it but with a little work this is a rewarding plant. Bullet proof to wind, rain, drought, deer, rabbits, grasshoppers. Fills the void between spring bulbs and your annuals kicking in. Do I pull mine, absolutely but only to thin for my other plants. Never with hope of eradication.

Posted by: Calvin C U - Winona
on: 2017-06-15 22:39:52

New to Winona, and dames rocket has provided quite long-lasting spring color. My wife loves it. Will pull, shred and compost it now as it's mostly done flowering. It's definitely not worse than garlic mustard here. I've pulled 30 bushels of garlic mustard already (and canned 12 pints of pesto), but I'm still finding about 30,000 stems per sq yard. The woods up hill are a monoculture of G-M in the understory. My site is a S facing hillside, but quite moist as sub-irrigated from the bluff above. Now that I know Hesperis is invasive, I will try to control it.

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