Common Names: Dame’s Rocket, 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.
Habitat :Hesperis matronalis is native to Eurasia and cultivated in many other areas of the world for their attractive spring blooming flowers. In some of those areas, it has escaped cultivation and become a weed species. The genus name Hesperis is Greek for evening, and the name was probably given because the scent of the flowers becomes more conspicuous towards evening.
It grows on the woodland edges, meadows, hedges, grass verges etc, avoiding acid soils.
Hesperis matronalis is biennial or short lived perennial herb.It grows 100 cm or taller, with multiple upright hairy stems. Typically the first year of growth produces a mound of foliage and flowering occurs the second year, plants are normally biennials but a number of races can be short lived perennials. The plants have showy blooms in early to mid spring. The leaves are alternately arranged on upright stems and lanceolate shaped, they typically have very short or lack petioles and have toothed margins but sometimes are entire, they are widest at the base. The foliage has short hairs on the top and bottom surfaces that give the leaves a somewhat rough feel. The larger leaves are around 12 cm long and over 4 cm wide. In early spring, a thick mound of low growing foliage is produced, during flowering the lower parts of the stems are generally unbranched and denuded of foliage and the top of the blooming plant might have a few branches that end in inflorescences.
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The plentiful fragrant flowers are produced in large showy terminal racemes, that can be 30+ cm tall, that elongate as the flowers of the inflorescence bloom. When stems have both flowers and fruits, the weight sometimes causes the stems to bend. Each flower is large (2 cm across), with four petals. Flower coloration varies, with different shades of lavender and purple most common, but white, pink, and even some flowers with mixed colors exist in cultivated forms. A few different double-flowered varieties also exist. The four Petals are clawed and hairless. The flowers have six stamens in two groups, the 4 closest to the ovary are longer than the two oppositely positioned. Stigmas are two-lobed. The four sepals are erect and form a mock tube around the claws of the petals and are also colored similarly to the petals.
Some plants may bloom until August, but warm weather greatly shortens the duration on each flowers blooming. Seeds are produced in thin fruits that are 5–14 cm long pods, containing two rows of seeds separated by a dimple. The fruits are terete and open by way of glabrous valves, constricted between the seeds like a pea-pod. Seeds are oblong shaped and 3–4 mm long and 1–1.5 mm wide.
In North America, Hesperis matronalis is often confused with native Phlox species that also have similar large showy flower clusters. They can be distinguished from each other by foliage and flower differences; Dame’s rocket has alternately arranged leaves and four petals per flower, while phlox have opposite leaves and five petals.
Prefers a rich moist well-drained soil, succeeding in full sun or semi-shade. Requires a neutral to alkaline soil. Prefers an alkaline soil. Tolerates poor soils. Grows well in damp, shady or grassy places. Established plants are drought resistant. Plants are hardy to about -20°c. A very ornamental plant, it is a short-lived perennial and is often grown as a biennial. A good bee, butterfly and moth plant, it is a specific food plant for the orange-tip butterfly. The flowers are very aromatic with a clove-like fragrance, this is especially apparent in the evening. They usually have very little scent during the day and thus obtained a reputation in folk-lore for deceit. The plant is sometimes cultivated for the essential oil contained in its seed. Special Features:Not North American native, Naturalizing, Attracts butterflies, Suitable for cut flowers, Fragrant flowers.
Seed – sow spring in an outdoor seedbed and plant them out in late summer. Germination should take place within 3 weeks. The seed can also be sown in early spring in a warm greenhouse. When large enough to handle, prick the seedlings out into individual pots and plant them out in late spring. The seed can also be sown in July for planting out in the following spring. Division. Plants are short-lived perennials, division may not be worthwhile. Cuttings in summer 7cm long in a shady border. Only done with named varieties being grown for ornament, it is not worthwhile otherwise..
Edible Parts: Leaves; Oil; Seed.
Edible Uses: Oil.
Young leaves – raw. Rich in vitamin C, they are used as a cress substitute in salads. A rather bitter flavour, though many people like the extra tang it gives to salads. For culinary purposes, the leaves should be picked before the plant flowers. The seed can be sprouted and added to salads. The seed contains 50% of an edible oil – there is a potential for cultivation.
The leaves are antiscorbutic, diaphoretic and diuretic. They are best harvested when the plant is in flower.
Other Uses :Landscape Uses:Border, Massing, Specimen, Woodland garden. An essential oil from the seed is used in perfumery. The plant is cultivated for this purpose.
The information presented herein is intended for educational purposes only. Individual results may vary, and before using any supplements, it is always advisable to consult with your own health care provider.