Dame’s Rocket, Dame’s Violet, Sweet Rocket, Wandering Lady
Synonyms for Hesperis matronalis (32) (Updated on 3-9-21): Antoniana sylvestris Bubani, Crucifera matronalis E.H.L.Krause, Deilosma inodorum Fuss, Deilosma niveum Fuss, Deilosma runcinatum Fuss, Deilosma sibirica Andrz. ex DC., Hesperis adzharica Tzvelev, Hesperis albiflora Schur, Hesperis bituminosa Willd., Hesperis caucasica Rupr., Hesperis euganea Marsili ex Ten., Hesperis graeca F.Dvorák, Hesperis heterophylla Ten., Hesperis hortensis Pers. ex Steud., Hesperis matronalis f. albiflora Farw., Hesperis matronalis f. glabra (Schur) Kuusk, Hesperis meyeriana (Trautv.) N.Busch, Hesperis oblongipetala Borbás, Hesperis oreophila Kitag., Hesperis pontica Zapal., Hesperis pycnotricha Borbás & Degen, Hesperis robusta (N.Busch) Tzvelev, Hesperis sabauda Rouy & Foucaud, Hesperis sibirica Hohen. ex Boiss., Hesperis theophrasti subsp. graeca F.Dvorák, Hesperis transcaucasica Tzvelev, Hesperis umbrosa Herbich, Hesperis unguinosa Schrank, Hesperis verna Pall. ex Ledeb., Hesperis voronovii N.Busch, Malcolmia runcinata Spreng. ex Steud., Viola matronalis Garsault
Hesperis matronalis L. is the correct and accepted scientific name for Dame’s Rocket (ETC.). The genus and species were named and described as such by Carl von Linnaeus in the second volume of the first edition of Species Plantarum in 1753.
Plants of the World Online lists 48 species in the Hesperis genus (as of 3-9-21 when I last updated this page). It is a member of the plant family Brassicaceae with a total of 343 genera. Those numbers could change as updates are made (and likely will).
The above distribution map for Hesperis matronalis is from Plants of the World Online. Areas in green are where the species is native and purple where it has been introduced. The map on the USDA Plants Database for North America is similar and also includes Alaska. The species could have a wider range than what the maps show.
THERE ARE SEVERAL LINKS AT THE BOTTOM OF THE PAGE FOR FURTHER READING AND TO HELP WITH A BETTER POSITIVE ID.
Hesperis matronalis is another plant with a mistaken identity. One evening toward the end of April I noticed what appeared to be a Phlox divaricata flowering in the area north of the chicken house where they have not been before. There is quite a large colony of them growing along the road up the street past the church which I also always assumed were Phlox. The Wild Blue Phlox grows abundantly in large colonies along highways and back roads in several areas. I decided to take photos of the plant and noticed right off it WAS NOT a Phlox divaricata. Hmmm…
Hesperis matronalis is considered a biennial or short-lived perennial that grows up to 3 1/2 feet tall in full sun to part shade. Plants come up and form a rosette of leaves the first year and flower the second. Being a member of the plant family Brassicaceae, the flowers are replaced by “ascending siliques” (narrow cylindrical seedpods) which open longitudinally. Plants have the ability to spread rampantly in the right conditions… Phlox species are members of the plant family Polemoniaceae.
Probably the first difference you will notice between Hesperis matronalis and Phlox divaricata is its flowers. While from a distance they look similar, you will see Hesperis flowers have four petals and the Phlox have five. The species can also have white flowers…
The plant’s stems and branches terminate in an inflorescence with multiple scented flowers. The scent is more noticeable in the evening.
Hesperis matronalis produces several branches at the base of the plants and also toward the upper part of the stems. The stems have small hairs (pubescent) with 2-branched and unbranched hairs. You would need a very good magnifying glass to see that.
The other distinguishing feature for Hesperis matronalis is the leaves. Phlox leaves grow opposite one another on the stems and Hesperis leaves grow in an alternate fashion. They appear to be clasping, but they are indeed sessile.
The lance-shaped leaves grow up to 6″ long and 2″ across. The lower leaves usually have short petioles (stems), while middle leaves are sessile (without petioles) and aren’t clasping. The margins of the leaves have widely-spaced teeth and have fine hairs (pubescent) giving them a slightly rough texture.
The above photo shows pubescent leaves and stems. The stems sometimes have small glands, which this one appears to have. Missouri Plants says the upper surface of the leaves has unbranched hairs while the underside has branched hairs. I am going to have a close look at that in 2021. 🙂 What is a branched hair?
I took the above photo just a little down the street north of where my farm is. This colony has been here for quite a while but I always thought they were Phlox. I was tempted to bring some home but then I found the plant in my own backyard. I definitely won’t be bringing any home… I just wonder how many will come up in 2021…
Hesperis matronalis is a native of many Eurasian countries and was apparently brought to North America in the 17th century. The USDA Plants Database shows its presence in most of North America now. Common names include Dame’s Rocket, Dame’s Violet, Sweet Rocket, and Wandering Lady. Many states have listed this species as a noxious weed and it is recommended not to move it or grow it under conditions that would involve danger of dissemination. Hmmm… Seed is available and wildflower mixes often contain its seeds which helped its spread in the first place.
I have enjoyed photographing and learning about the many wildflowers growing on the farm and other areas. My farm is in Windsor, Missouri in Pettis County (Henry County is across the street and Benton and Johnson aren’t far away). I have grown over 500 different plants and most have pages listed on the right side of the blog. I am not an expert, botanist, or horticulturalist. I just like growing, photographing and writing about my experience. I rely on several websites for ID and a horticulturalist I contact if I cannot figure them out. Wildflowers can be somewhat variable from location to location, so sometimes it gets a bit confusing. If you see I have made an error, please let me know so I can correct what I have written.
I hope you found this page useful and be sure to check the links below for more information. They were written by experts and provide much more information. Some sites may not be up-to-date but they are always a work in progress. If you can, I would appreciate it if you would click on the “Like” below and leave a comment. It helps us bloggers stay motivated. You can also send an email to me at firstname.lastname@example.org. I would enjoy hearing from you especially if you notice something is a bit whacky
NOTE: Plants of the World Online is the most up-to-date database. It is very hard for some to keep with name changes these days so you may find a few discrepancies between the websites. Just be patient. Hopefully, someday they will be in harmony. 🙂