May is the month that a handsome flower can be seen across the landscape- along wood edges, in wood clearings, occasionally in moist fields. It looks like something right out of a garden- and that’s exactly what it is.
This is Dame’s Rocket, a member of the Mustard family. It has graced gardens since the days of the Roman Empire, and it’s easy to see why. It looks great and it is very hardy. It is a native of Eurasia.
A common sight along Ohio’s roads in May- growing in colonies
This wildflower has not stayed in gardens, however. Since it is quite robust, it does well without care. Animals spread its seeds out into the wild, and it has flourished there.
The flowers are usually deep violet-pink and have four petals
This makes this plant an invasive species, unfortunately. Although it is quite pretty, it crowds out native species. Like its equally invasive relative Garlic Mustard, it produces a substance that suppresses the growth of other plants. I have a feeling that people object less to this wildflower than other invasives because it looks so nice.
Occasionally one sees white variations of Dame’s Rocket
Dame’s Rocket is often mistaken for Garden Phlox; however, Phlox has five petals on its flowers, while Dame’s Rocket has four, like all Mustard flowers.
It is a fairy tall plant, growing to around 3 feet in height
Some folks like to put the flowers in salads– make sure you don’t put Phlox flowers in your bowl, though! This is a don’t-waste-anything approach to dealing with an invasive plant.
Leaves are toothed and alternate along the stem
This wildflower blooms for 4-6 weeks, so it will be tapering off in numbers in the summer, producing plenty of seeds. It would be nice if it stayed in gardens!