Practical ecological knowledge for the temperate reader.

Hesperis matronalis - sweet rocket

Family: Brassicaceae (Mustard) [E-flora]

"Hesperis matronalis is a PERENNIAL growing to 0.8 m (2ft 7in) by 0.6 m (2ft) at a medium rate. It is hardy to zone (UK) 3 and is not frost tender. It is in flower from May to July, and the seeds ripen from Jun to August. The flowers are hermaphrodite (have both male and female organs) and are pollinated by Bees, flies, lepidoptera.It is noted for attracting wildlife.
Suitable for: light (sandy), medium (loamy) and heavy (clay) soils, prefers well-drained soil and can grow in nutritionally poor soil. Suitable pH: neutral and basic (alkaline) soils and can grow in very alkaline soils. It can grow in semi-shade (light woodland) or no shade. It prefers dry or moist soil and can tolerate drought." [PFAF]

General: "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." [IFBC-E-flora]
Leaves: "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." [IFBC-E-flora]
Flowers: "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." [IFBC-E-flora]
Fruits: "Siliques, 4-10 cm long, 1-2 mm wide, round in cross section, usually somewhat alternately contracted and expanded; seeds 3-4 mm long." [IFBC-E-flora]

Habitat / 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." [IFBC-E-flora]

Origin Status: Exotic [E-flora]

Food Usage

"The young leaves have a bitter flavour and can be added to salads; they work well with potatoes and pasta. The flowers are edible, and can be added to fruit and savory salads; they also crystallize well, making an attractive garnish for cakes and puddings." [Mcvicar GH]

Other Usage

Herbal Usage

"The plant is used especially for strangury. The leaves and seeds made into tea are excellent in old slimy coughs and other ailments of the chest. The tea is successfully used for all skin eruptions which have a red scab and where the skin is swollen and tender. Should be used internally as well as externally. Also good for milk scurf. Strong doses will cause vomiting. To avoid vomiting and diarrhoea in weak persons combine it with Violet leaves and flowers." [Deschauer]

Harvesting: "Pick young leaves before the plant flowers in early summer. Pick the flowers throughout the summer-preferably in the morning, just as they open." [Mcvicar GH]

"Prefers a rich moist well-drained soil, succeeding in full sun or semi-shade[111, 244]. Requires a neutral to alkaline soil[200]. Prefers an alkaline soil[190]. Tolerates poor soils[200, 233]. Grows well in damp, shady or grassy places[187]. Established plants are drought resistant[190]. Plants are hardy to about -20oc[187]. A very ornamental plant[1], it is a short-lived perennial[187] and is often grown as a biennial. A good bee, butterfly and moth plant, it is a specific food plant for the orange-tip butterfly[17, 30, 200]. The flowers are very aromatic with a clove-like fragrance, this is especially apparent in the evening[188, 245]. They usually have very little scent during the day and thus obtained a reputation in folk-lore for deceit[244]. The plant is sometimes cultivated for the essential oil contained in its seed[61]." [PFAF]

"Seed - sow spring in an outdoor seedbed and plant them out in late summer[111]. Germination should take place within 3 weeks. The seed can also be sown in early spring in a warm greenhouse. When large enough to handle, prick the seedlings out into individual pots and plant them out in late spring. The seed can also be sown in July for planting out in the following spring. Division. Plants are short-lived perennials, division may not be worthwhile. Cuttings in summer 7cm long in a shady border[111]. Only done with named varieties being grown for ornament, it is not worthwhile otherwise." [PFAF]


Hesperis Sp. - Rocket

"Biennial, perennial herb; hairs simple, stalked-forked, generally mixed with some stalked glands. Leaf: generally rosetted, entire to dentate or lobed; cauline petioled or sessile [base occasionally lobed or clasping stem]. Inflorescence: elongated; bracts 0 [throughout]. Flower: sepals erect, inner pair sac-like at base; petals white to purple, yellow, brown, or green, clawed. Fruit: silique, linear, cylindric to 4-sided or flat parallel to septum, late-dehiscent, unsegmented; valves 1–3-veined; stigma deeply 2-lobed. Seed: 4–40, in 1 row; wing 0.
25 species: Eurasia. (Greek: evening, when some flowers are most fragrant)" [Jepson]

Local Species;


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