Normand Boulet, CCA
When the new Weed Control Act was proclaimed in 2010, it signaled a major shift of focus from agricultural weeds, to agricultural weeds and invasive plants which impact the environment – especially wetlands and other natural sensitive areas.
One such invasive plant is Dame’s rocket, also referred to as Dames violet or sweet rocket. Other than perhaps taking over a wetland or riparian area in a pasture, I don’t envision a scenario where you could consider Dame’s rocket a weed of agriculture. Dame’s rocket (Hesperis matronalis) is a biennial or short-lived perennial plant introduced from Europe as a garden ornamental. It’s a member of the Mustard (Canola) or Cruciferae family.
Cruciferous plants have four flower petals – think of them arranged in a cross, therefore crucifix. Dame’s rocket is listed as a noxious weed under the Weed Control Act of Alberta, it’ll grow to about one metre in height and have fragrant usually purple/pink (sometimes white) flowers.
As a proof of “you never know what you have until you start looking,” Dame’s rocket was a bit of an oddity in our area (so we thought), we would run into it every so often in our road ditches as it had escaped from someone’s garden. However once it was listed on the Weed Control Act it became our legal responsibility to be looking for it, and a landowner’s legal responsibility to control it. Then we started seeing it, actually we started seeing it all over. Being an early blooming plant with lovely fragrant flowers that attracts bees, it has been a favourite of gardeners for many years. So we have found it in many yards, and especially many old yard sites where it has spread from the abandoned flower beds into the yard and often to our roadside. Being a lover of wet areas, it often moves down the ditches or into riparian areas. Quite often it is present in many areas of a person’s yard and isn’t really seen until we get significant moisture, or the landowner decides to skip a mowing – and then it jumps into bloom and is extremely noticeable.
Hand pulling and incinerating the plant can be very effective. Mowing it before it sets seed will at least keep it from spreading.
If you find Dame’s rocket, or need help confirming a plant’s identity contact the agricultural fieldman in your municipality (County, M.D., Specialized Municipality or Special Area) or your town or village office. The Association of Alberta Agricultural Fieldmen (AAAF) have developed an app which allows you to report invasive plants – the report is sent to the office of the agricultural fieldman in the area your GPS enabled phone says the weeds are found. The app is free and available at Apple and Android app sites, look for the AAAF weed report app.
If you’d like to contact me, please call (780) 837-0043. I can also be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org; or via Twitter, @MDfieldman.