Thursday, May 17, 2012

Dame's Rocket

Dame's Rocket in front of Yellow Rocket - © Dave Spier

Normally I see it on our way to the Allegany Nature Pilgrimage in southwestern New York the weekend after Memorial Day. It blankets low areas, stream banks, flood plains, woods edges and partially shaded wild areas. Dame's Rocket, Hesperis matronalis, usually peaks around Memorial Day, but it might be early this year. Look for patches of showy wildflowers several feet high with a mix of purple, pink, lavender and nearly-white blossoms. Sometimes a single flower will sport multiple colors or stripes on each petal. The central flower tube generally hides the male and female reproductive parts (stamens and style). Each blossom with its four petals can be nearly an inch across.

Dame's Rocket at the Montezuma Audubon Center
© Dave Spier

Dame’s Rocket is one of many members of the Mustard Family. It arrived here from Eurasia as a garden flower but escaped to the wild and successfully colonized a variety of habitats (a process termed naturalization). In other words, it’s an alien. If you can get past looking at the flowers and smelling their fragrance, you might notice that the alternate, lance-shaped leaves are toothed along the edge and end in long points. Each leaf attaches directly to the main stalk without a leaf-stem (petiole).

Dame's Rocket is sometimes confused with Phlox species which have opposite leaves and five petals.

In case there are no Dame’s Rockets in your neighborhood, there are plenty growing at the Montezuma Audubon Center just north of Savannah, NY. To find out about upcoming programs at the Montezuma Audubon Center, phone (315) 365-3588, send an e-mail, or visit the MAC’s website.  It’s free to just visit the center and walk the trails and look at the wildflowers and birds.

Comments, corrections and questions are always welcome at  The MAC's e-mail address is

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