I’d always known this wildflower by this name but I might prefer a few others I’ve come to know: damask violet, dame’s violet, night-scented gilliflower and summer lilac, the first two for its typical shades of intense violet and the last two for its intense scent at evening. I’d also always confused it was tall phlox, also a wildflower that blooms a little later with a few weeks of overlap, until I realized the rocket has four petals on its cruciferous flowers and is a brassica, related to wild and cultivated mustards as well as broccoli and collard greens. Below is a close-up of flowers and stems, and possibly between the photo above and the photo below you can see the reason for calling it “rocket”, though I think that is more for its relation to eruca sativa or in Italian rucola, what we know today as rocket, or arugula.
I had also always thought of it as a native wildflower until I learned it was another passenger on European ships, whether intentionally or accidentally, coming over with crop seeds, yet often the migrants would bring the seeds of their favorite blooming plants so that the new world would seem more familiar, more like home.
And that scent; this is one thing we lose when we grow only hybrid cultivated flowers. Nothing smells like a wildflower, like “night-scented gilliflower” or like tall phlox that has to work so hard to bring pollinators into its flowers to ensure the next generation.
I’d been driving past this little detention pond at the intersection of two roads, and where normally it’s just an overgrown pattern of greens and textures, each spring at this time it literally bursts into bloom another possible use of the word “rocket”.
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All images in this post are copyright © Bernadette E. Kazmarski and may not be used without prior written permission.