Don't Be Fooled By Dame's Rockets - Beth Scheckelhoff Jim Chatfield


If you traveled at all over the past week – even for a quick drive out of town or around the county – you likely saw pockets of beautiful purple and white blooms along woodlots, roadsides, water edges, and disturbed areas. You may have even exclaimed – the “phlox are out!” So beautiful!  

Dame's rocket

Alas, the plant that is flowering profusely right now is Dame’s rocket. These flowers have fooled a many folk before from a distance, including myself. Dame’s rocket (Hesperis matronalis) resembles phlox in height and color but is in a different plant family entirely, the Mustard family (Brassicaceae) while Phlox is in the Phlox family (Polemoniaceae).  Perhaps the most distinguishing difference between the two is that Dame’s rocket has four petals, while phlox has five.

Dame's rocket flower

Inflorescence ofHesperis matronaliswith individual flowers having four petals, a characteristic of plants in the Mustard family.

white petals

Dame's rocket flowers varying in color from milky white to violet and shades in between.

Phlox

In contrast, thisPhlox paniculatahybrid has five petals per flower on each inflorescence.

Phlox divaricata

The woodland wildflowerPhlox divaricataalso features five petals per flower.

While beautiful, dame’s rocket does have an invasive nature as evidenced by the prolific pockets of plants readily seen this time of year.Hesperisis an introduced plant to the US and can now be found in nearly every state, officially making the noxious weed lists in Colorado, Connecticut, and Massachusetts (PlANTS database.) While it is not onOhio’s Noxious weed list, it does have a place onODA’s Invasive Plants listalong with 37 other plants that cannot be sold, propagated, distributed, imported or disseminated within the state. 

Don't be fooled by the beauty of Dame's rocket. This plant will not make a great addition to Ohio cutting or perennial gardens. It's best to rogue any resident plants out now and in the future. 

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