Saturday, May 29, 2010

Dame's Rocket

This summer I hope to get out more on my bike and try to take an impression in watercolour of some of the succession of wildflowers to be seen along the Niagara Parkway recreational path, the north end of which begins just a few blocks from where we live.

A few days ago I came across a patch of Dame’s Rocket (Hesperis matronalis) in Paradise Grove, a little to the north of the historic McFarland House. .This species grows in great profusion along the side of highways in our area, and has also colonized our own perennial garden, making an early pretty mix of colour in mauves, pinks and white. Not expecting to see much in the way of wildflowers on the Parkway yet, I hadn’t taken any paints with me on my ride that day, so I went back early the next morning to make this quick sketch. These flowers are sharing a space in the open woodland with a jungle of wild raspberries, which are now just starting to show their own little blooms.

I am by no means a wildflower expert, but enjoy identifying species when I can, and posting properly tagged pictures on Flickr. Although I have enjoyed the sight of this flower for many years, I never did know what it was. It looked to me like a wild phlox. Frustratingly, it didn’t seem to feature in my Audubon Field Guide, but enquiry of my neighbour elicited two names – ‘Dame’s Rocket’ and ‘Dame’s Violet’. Armed with this information I quickly found out all about it via Google. I had already discovered that, with only four petals on each little floret it could not be phlox; since that has five petals. It is indeed a look-alike, but a member of the mustard family, an invasive species from Eurasia, introduced in the 17th century. It has certainly made itself at home here.

Hmm. I see I must work on both observing more closely, and taking more care with my sketching – I have painted a number of leaves as opposite pairs where they should be alternate. It would be good practice and fun to try a more accurate botanical painting.


  1. Beautiful sketch Andrew, and great research, loved the info. It's amazing what we see once we start looking, isn't it? Like four petals instead of 5...


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