Got Dame’s Rocket?

So many of the plants we love to hate found their way to this continent via horticulture. There is no telling how species from elsewhere in the world are going to behave when they reach new lands, free of competition and predation. Dame’s rocket (Hesperis matronalis) is starting to look like one of those species we must be wary of. Seeds of this showy, fragrant mustard are commonly sold in wildflower mixes here in the US, despite the fact it is from Eurasia. The problem with dame’s rocket is that it doesn’t like to stay in place. It quickly escapes into new areas. Most commonly encountered on roadsides and trails, it is beginning to be found in great numbers in interior forests as well. The problem with the plant is that infestations can reach astronomical numbers in a short period of time. A thick monoculture of dame’s rocket quickly outcompetes native vegetation to the point where nothing else can grow. The flowers vary in color from a deep lavender to completely white. Some are even a mixture of the two. It is sometimes confused with Wild Blue Pholx (Phlox divaricata – also pictured here) but a close inspection will reveal some stark differences. For starters, dame’s rocket is a mustard and thus has only 4 petals. Wild Blue Phlox has 5. Dame’s rocket is also a much more robust plant, whereas wild blue phlox is more slender in appearance. The good news about dame’s rocket is that we are at the early stages of invasion. With a watchful eye and some elbow grease, infestations can quickly be dealt with

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