Dame’s Rocket – Hesperis matronalis

Dame's Rocket flowers & seedpods
Dame’s Rocket flowers & seedpods

…I fill my nostrils again & again
with the scent
of dame’s-rocket…

 

By Dave Bonta, click to read the remainder of the poem

 

This short lived perennial from Europe was first introduced to North America in the 1600s, probably by early European settlers bringing bits of home with them. It quickly escaped and is considered noxious or invasive in Colorado, Connecticut, and Massachusetts.

 

Like other members of the mustard family the young leaves can be added to salads for their bitter, cress-like flavor. Rich in Vitamin C, they should be picked before the plant flowers. After it flowers, walking past it in the evening a rich clove like perfume can be smelled. But during the day it exudes very little scent, giving it the reputation for deceit in folk-lore.

 

Here in southern Delaware Dame’s Rocket will cover the sides of the road, sometimes for miles. Yet in other places it is nowhere to be seen. When you do find a large stand of it, it is amazing how many butterflies, moths and bees are attracted to this rich nectar source. It is a specific food for the orange tip butterfly.

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