This non-native species is hard to ignore. It has even established itself on our backyard. Dame’s Rocket, also known as Dame’s Violet and Mother-of-the-evening, was introduced as an ornamental around the time of European settlement.
Dame’s Rocket bears loose clusters of attractive, fragrant, pinkish-purple to white four-petaled flowers on two-to-four foot stems. Its leaves are arranged alternately on the stem and are slightly hairy and lance-shaped with toothed margins.
This plant’s habitat includes open woodlands, prairies, roadsides, ditches and other disturbed areas. The plant’s three-month-long blooming period and ability to set abundant seed have contributed to its spread. A single plant produces up to 20,000 seeds.
Dame’s Rocket is often confused with Garden Phlox, because the flower colors, clustered blooms and bloom time are similar. However, Garden Phlox has flowers with five petals (Dame’s Rocket has four).
Although problematic because is displaces native plants and it considered an invasive species (five states have placed legal restrictions on it), this member of the Mustard Family is a food source for caterpillars as well as a nectar source for bees, butterflies, moths and hummingbirds.