Dame's Rocket

Dame's Rocket
Dame's Rocket. Hesperis matronalis.
Brassicaceae, the mustard family.

Plant: Upright stems, 1'-3', with alternate leaves and terminal clusters of pink, four-petalled flowers. Biennial.
Flowers: Pink to lavender or purple, four petals, about 1" across. Flowers in rounded or slightly elongated clusters (racemes). Styles and stamens are hidden.
Leaves: Basal (first year), alternate on stem, ovate to narrowly ovate, with rounded base, to about 6". Leaves are somewhat hairy above, sharply toothed (serrate) and nearly sessile.
Fruit: An elongated capsule growing up from the flower - the classic "mustard" fruiting body.
Blooming: May-June
Habitat: Wood margins, clearings, roadsides. Prefers moist, well-drained soil.

Comments: Introduced from Europe as a garden plant, the species is widely naturalized in North America, to the point that it is considered a problem weed in some areas. There are a number of horticultural cultivars of various colors, from white through violet and pink. It seeds easily, and sometimes forms dense stands, crowding out native plants. A biennial, Dame's Rocket forms a dense clump or rosette of basal leaves the first year, sending up flowering stems the second. The overall aspect is similar to some phlox species. The latter is easily distinguished by having five petals and opposite leaves.

Where to find it: Near the low-lying wooded area across the entrance road from the lodge.