Iodanthus pinnatifidus (Purple Rocket)

Plant Info
Also known as:
Family:Brassicaceae (Mustard)
Life cycle:perennial
  • State Endangered
Habitat:part shade, shade; moist to wet; floodplain forest
Bloom season:June - July
Plant height:1 to 3 feet
Wetland Indicator Status:GP: FACW MW: FACW NCNE: FACW
MN county distribution (click map to enlarge):Minnesota county distribution map
National distribution (click map to enlarge):National distribution map

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Detailed Information

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

[photo of flowers] Loose, elongating cluster at the top of the plant and arising from upper leaf axils, the longest extending 12 inches or more with many open flowers above and fruit forming below. Flowers are about ¼ inch across, have 4 pale violet to white petals with rounded tips, and 6 dark purple-gray stamens surrounding a stout style in the center. The 4 sepals behind the flower are oblong, shorter than the petals, and pale pinkish-purple with a spot of light green covered in a few white hairs at the tip. Flower stalks are hairless, green to purple, and up to about 1/3 inch long.

Leaves and stems: Leaf attachment: alternate Leaf type: lobed Leaf type: simple

[photo of lower leaf] Leaves are alternate, thin and hairless, the lower leaves up to 6 inches long and 1½ inches wide, lance-oblong to elliptic in outline, blunt to pointed at the tip, tapering to a winged stalk, often with a pair of small lobes (auricles) at the base of the stalk that clasp the stem. Larger leaves may have 1 to 4 pairs of small lobes along the stalk. Edges are sharply toothed to nearly toothless.

[photo of upper leaf] Leaves become smaller, shorter stalked, and more lance-shaped as they ascend the stem, minutely to coarsely toothed around the edges, pointed at the tip, the uppermost leaves stalkless. Stems are erect, hairless, ridged, unbranched or few branched in the upper plant.

Fruit: Fruit type: capsule/pod

[photo of fruit] Fruit is a thin pod up to 1½ inches long, ascending to spreading (rarely erect), straight to slightly curved, and contain a single row of seeds. There is very little constriction in between the seeds.

[photo of seeds] Seeds are about 1 mm long, oval-oblong, golden brown, and have a fine network pattern across the surface.


Purple Rocket is a very rare species in Minnesota where it reaches the northern fringe of its range. It is distinguished by the long, loose racemes of ¼-inch pale violet to white flowers, thin, hairless and toothed leaves, the larger of which often have auricled or clasping bases. Only 4 populations have been recorded in the state, the first from Red Wing in 1886; it and 2 other historical populations along the Root River have never been relocated and are presumed destroyed. According to the DNR, its preferred habitat in MN is floodplain forest, which has been degraded or destroyed by several causes, including clearing for agriculture, grazing where clearing was impractical, water-level manipulation from the lock and dam system on the Mississippi River, and invasive species that travel along waterways or infest woodlands. Buckthorn, Garlic Mustard and non-native Honeysuckles are common invasives in these areas but Japanese Hops and Poison Hemlock are quickly taking hold, especially along the Root River. Purple Rocket was listed as a Special Concern species in 1984 but elevated to Endangered in 1996 after intensive biological surveys in the southeast counties located only a single population. It is currently a Special Concern species in Wisconsin. While a number of non-native mustard species in Minnesota are invasive, Purple Rocket is struggling to survive, as are many other native mustards.

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More photos

Photos by Peter M. Dziuk taken in his garden.


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

Posted by: Deirdre Mahoney - Ideal Corners, Minnesota
on: 2018-08-08 14:31:03

I am restoring a shoreline on our lake and there are two of these little plants blooming under a tamarack tree about 5 feet from the lake in part shade.

Posted by: Kate - Southwest Minneapolis
on: 2022-06-26 10:12:16

What are the characteristics to distinguish between white flowers on this plant and on white flowers on Dame?s Rocket? Thanks

Posted by: K Chayka
on: 2022-06-26 12:39:58

Kate, flower size is a huge difference between the two species; you really can't mistake the small-flowered purple rocket with the large-flowered dames rocket.

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