Weed Warrior Frank’s invasive weed of the week

Weed of Week 4: Dame’s Rocket

Would you like to guess what is the latest weed to invade our fair city? It just might be Dame’s Rocket (aka: Sweet Rocket, Damask Violet, Dame’s Violet, Dames-wort, Dame’s Gilliflower, Night Scented Gilliflower, Queen’s Gilliflower, Rogue’s Gilliflower, Summer Lilac, Mother-of-the-Evening and Winter Gilliflower).

Most career criminals don’t have that many aliases.

So far, the Weed Pros have only seen it in three Cranbrook locations.

What is the problem with this pretty pink, white or lavender flower, you ask? Mainly, like other invasive ornamentals, it doesn’t stay put. In the mid 1990s, the website Mother Earth Living promoted Dame’s Rocket as “trouble-free an herb as you could ask for.” The article promoted Dame’s Rocket as an ornamental, even though in the next paragraph, the author stated that the plant escaped gardens 300 some years ago and spread all across eastern North America.

Maybe the author should have thought for a minute about the consequences of promoting such an ornamental, because now, Dame’s Rocket is listed as a noxious weed in Alberta and Saskatchewan too. Both provinces ask people not to buy packages of wildflower seeds, as too many invasive weed seeds are included in the mix.

It is wiser to buy specific flowers, so you know the safety ahead of planting. The Grow Me Instead brochures, distributed by the Invasive Species Council, tell you which plants are not harmful.

The City of Calgary says Dame’s Rocket “chokes out other vegetation and harbours dangerous plant diseases.”

Dame’s Rocket is, currently, not listed as a noxious weed in B.C.; however, due to its difficulty to control and ability to spread far and wide, it probably should be. Dame’s Rocket looks like Garden Phlox, but only has four petals on each flower, whereas Phlox flowers have five petals.

The hairy, dark green, serrated, lance shaped leaves of Dame’s Rocket spiral around the stem. Its seed pods burst open and spray seeds onto any passing carrier — wind, mouse, bird, deer, you — allowing the plant to spread over a large area, in a short period of time.

The best way to control Dame’s Rocket is to pull it out of moist soil before it goes to seed. Use a screwdriver or your favourite digging tool to loosen the earth around the roots before pulling the plant out of the ground; then, bag the whole plant and put it in the regular garbage for deep burial.

Is Dame’s Rocket taking over in your neighbourhood?

Weed Warrior Frank.

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