Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Dame's-Rocket at the Woodland Edge

I escorted the daughter of one of our donors on a short walk across one of our meadows last Friday.  The daughter was in town from California, and wanted to visit the bench we had installed in memory of her brother who died after falling from a cliff in Ontario.  Both she and her brother loved our natural area, and this woman stops by every time she's in town.

En route to the bench, we passed an impressive stand of dame's-rocket (Hesperis matronalis) at the edge of the woods.  I stopped to make a few images while my guest watched a Baltimore oriole tend to its nest overhead.

I like everything about dame's-rocket, from its name to its flower.  Well, almost everything: it's not native. 

According to Wikipedia, the plant has many common names (e.g., damask violet, dame’s violet, dames-wort, dame’s gilliflower, night-scented gilliflower, queen’s gilliflower, rogue’s gilliflower, summer lilac, sweet rocket, mother-of-the-evening and winter gilliflower), but I've only ever known it as dame's-rocket.  The "rocket" moniker denotes its membership in the Brassicaceae, or mustard family.

The genus name, Hesperis, wonderfully exotic and pleasing to speak and hear, is Greek for evening -  probably a nod to the fact that  the scent of the flowers becomes more conspicuous towards sunset.
Dame's-rocket was brought to North America from Europe in the 17th century and has since become naturalized.  The plant is considered an invasive species in some areas; in fact, three states have designated it a noxious weed and have prohibited its sale, importation or cultivation.

Dame's-rocket is fairly common in open woodland glades in my preserve where it grows profusely.  Isn't it interesting (and hypocritical) that I'm willing to tolerate (and even enjoy) this fragrant, lovely, non-native weed while I will go to nearly any length to uproot, deflower, and poison its non-native cousin garlic mustard (Alliaria petiolota)?
Garlic mustard


Mark P said...

It is interesting. But I guess attractiveness is why so many non-native plants get so widely distributed.

packrat said...

I like the name Dame's-Rocket, too, Scott. Never heard of that one before.

Scott said...

Mark: A large percentage of the plants that are problematic are ornamental introduction like dame's-rocket. Most of the rest were inadvertently introduced as contaminants in agricultural seeds or dumped on riverbanks by ships unloading ballast.

Scott said...

Packrat: I'd bet that if you visited a natural area near Youngstown you'd find dame's-rocket now--and probably plenty of it.

robin andrea said...

The story of the young woman stopping by whenever she's in town is very touching. How sad that she lost her brother, and how truly love that there is a bench in his memory there.

Scott said...

It really is a nice story, Robin Andrea. Our organization received about $5,000 from friends and family members after the young man died. It allowed us to install the bench, build a fire pit (with a commemorative plaque) we use for programs, and install a classy new birdie drinking fountain/birdbath in our native wildflower garden.