Hesperis matronalis L.
sweet rocket (dames rocket; dames'-violet)
Brassicaceae (Mustard family)

Introduction to Vascular Plants


© Allan Carson     (Photo ID #12024)


E-Flora BC Static Map

Distribution of Hesperis matronalis
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Species Information

Perennial or biennial herb from a taproot; stems 1 to sometimes several, simple or sparingly branched, 0.5-1.3 m tall, leafy, hairy with coarse, spreading, simple or branched hairs.
Basal leaves soon deciduous; stem leaves lanceolate to narrowly egg-shaped, saw-toothed, 1.5-20 cm long, 0.5-4 cm wide, lower long-stalked, smaller and unstalked upwards, hairy with simple and branched hairs.
Fragrant; inflorescence compound, somewhat corymbiform racemes; flower stalks 3-15 mm long, ascending to spreading; petals white to rose or purple, 15-25 mm long; sepals 5-7 mm long, soft-hairy.
Siliques, 4-10 cm long, 1-2 mm wide, round in cross section, usually somewhat alternately contracted and expanded; seeds 3-4 mm long.

SourceThe Illustrated Flora of British Columbia


If more than one illustration is available for a species (e.g., separate illustrations were provided for two subspecies) then links to the separate images will be provided below. Note that individual subspecies or varietal illustrations are not always available.

USDA Species Characteristics

Flower Colour:
Blooming Period:
Fruit/Seed characteristics:
Colour: Brown
Present from Summer to Fall
Source:  The USDA

Habitat and Range

Mesic to dry roadsides, fields and disturbed areas in the lowland, steppe and montane zones; frequent in SW BC, known from Vancouver Island and the adjacent mainland, rare in SC BC, locally frequent in WC and SE BC; introduced from Eurasia.

SourceThe Illustrated Flora of British Columbia

Taxonomic Notes

In snapdragons...it has been shown that streaking of the [petals such as is found] in dame's rocket is due to jumping genes. This rather fanciful term refers to a mobile piece of DNA, which can land in the middle of another gene (in this case a pigment gene) and inactivate it (in this case causing albinism). At random intervals the jumping gene jumps out again, causing a streak of normal pigmented tissue.

Source: Griffiths and Ganders. 1983. Wildflower Genetics: A Field Guide for British Columbia and the Pacific Northwest.


Griffiths, Anthony J. F. and Fred R. Ganders. 1983. Wildflower Genetics: A Field Guide for British Columbia and the Pacific Northwest. Flight Press, Vancouver.