Dame's Rocket
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Dame's Rocket
ntroduced Photo: Thingnam Girija
Common name: Dame's Rocket, Sweet Rocket
Botanical name: Hesperis matronalis     Family: Brassicaceae (Mustard family)

Dame's Rocket is a delightful upright biennial that is often mistaken for wild phlox. If in doubt, Dame's Rocket has four flower petals, and all Phlox types have five. Dame's Rocket is an easy to grow biennial or short-lived perennial which naturalizes freely and in some areas is considered a noxious weed. In the home garden, however, this plant can be a welcome addition, providing bright color in the form of white, pinkish purple, or violet purple flowers, on tall, sturdy plants that hold up to all but the strongest winds. It forms a clump in the first year, then bursts into bloom in the second, making the wait very worthwhile. One must get close to it during the day to find the fragrance, but at night it releases a delicious scent into the air that can be detected from a good distance. Bees and butterflies love the sweet smell and bright color of the plant. 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. The plant is part of the mustard family, which also includes radishes, broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower, and, of course, mustard, to name a few.

Identification credit: Gautam Muralidharan Photographed in Shimla

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