Friday, May 11, 2012

Is it? No, it isn't

Dame's rocket
When I first saw this flower, I thought, “wild phlox!” Unfortunately, that is not the case. This is dame’s rocket, yet another invasive species from Europe.

This invasive arrived in the 1600’s, and nothing I read finds much onerous to say about this showy plant. The worst that can be said for it is that it “might” push out native species. Compared with invasives like multiflora rose, that’s a pretty mild condemnation. Besides, any plant that arrived in the 1600’s is more “native” than my own family, who didn’t get to this side of the pond until the mid-1700’s.

Dame’s rocket is all over the place right now, filling every roadside gutter and ditch from the bottom of Roundtop Mountain to almost the top of it. These plants don’t flower for very long. Yesterday was the first I saw them in any numbers, and they will likely be diminishing in number by next week.

The flowers run the gamut of shades from almost white to mid-purple, and every shade in between. Many gardeners grow dame’s rocket in their gardens, and it easily and happily escapes those confines of civilization. And just so you know, wild phlox has five petals, not four, but until you are close enough to see that, the plants look much alike.

Still, I find it discouraging at how often wildflowers here on the mountain turn out to have originated someplace else, nearly always Europe. It’s completely understandable that new immigrants would like a bit of “home” in their gardens and around their houses, but I can’t help but wonder and fantasize a bit about what this area would look like today if only native plants covered the area. Only in my dreams is that a reality.


Elora said...

Funny...yesterday I was thinking the same thing, Carolyn (if the Move-In's weren't here, what would the landscape be like. I started counting natives versus non-natives (invasives) and I came up with few natives by comparison. Wonder if Maiden Hair ferns are native or not. I found a rare patch of them yesterday and was thrilled, as it has disappeared from former haunts. And BTW, we let our yard go to Dame's Rocket every year. It's beautiful! A guilty pleasure!


Carolyn H said...

Elora: I've also been discouraged to find just how few common plants and wildflowers here are natives. I'm pretty sure maidenhair fern is native. i have several plants here on the mountain, and I watch them every year to make sure they aren't destroyed. If people knew what they were or bothered to notice them, I'm afraid they'd get dug up.

Scott said...

Elora and Carolyn: Yes, maidenhair fern is a native, as you surmised. When I first saw Dame's Rocket, I was fooled into thinking it was phlox, too. But, anything that grows so well and prolifically (at least here in the Mid-Atlantic) usually turns out to be an introduction. It is lovely, though, and I leave it alone and enjoy it.

John "By Stargoose And Hanglands" said...

Dame's Violet is the usual name here. If it makes you feel any better we have lots of invasive species too!

Carolyn H said...

John: Dame's rocket has tons of common names, including the one you mentioned. I've also read that it's called damask violet, dames-wort, night-scented gilliflower, queen's gilliflower (a promotion!), rogue's gilliflower (quite a demotion!), summer lilac, winter gilliflower and mother-of-the-evening.