FULL SCIENTIFIC NAME
Hesperis matronalis L.
FAMILY NAME COMMON
FAMILY SCIENTIFIC NAME
Close-up of white flowers
Flowers being pollinated by moth
Hesperis matronalis is an erect, herbaceous biennial or perennial that grows 0.5-1.25 m (1.5-4 ft.) tall. The alternate leaves are lanceolate to deltoid-lanceolate and are 5-10 cm (2-4 in.) long. They vary from having short petioles to being sessile. The leaf margins are denticulate. The leaves are pubescent above and below. The fragrant flowers can vary in color from purple to pink to white. The flowers appear in late May to June and are borne in terminal racemes. They have 4 petals and are about 2 cm (0.75 in.) in size. The siliques (fruits) are 5-10 cm (2-4 in.) in length and are somewhat constricted around the many seeds. Page References Bailey 449, Fernald 712, Gleason & Cronquist 196, Holmgren 179, Magee & Ahles 560, Newcomb 138, Peterson & McKenny 84,226. See reference section below for full citations.
Phlox spp. Picture of a species of Phlox Hesperis matronalis is often mistaken for Phlox spp. Hesperis matronalis can be distinguished from Phlox spp. by its flowers with four separate petals and alternate leaves. Phlox spp. have opposite leaves and five fused petals.
The seeds of Hesperis matronalis are spread mechanically when the dehiscent fruits open. They are often planted by gardeners as part of "native" wildflower mixes.
Hesperis matronalis is native to Europe. It is now distributed throughout Canada and much of the United States. The only states which do not have this plant are Hawaii, Arizona, Texas, Oklahoma, Louisiana, Alabama, Mississippi and Florida.
HISTORY OF INTRODUCTION IN NEW ENGLAND
Hesperis matronalis has been present in this country for so long that most people think it is native. It was most likely introduced in the 1600's for use in gardens as well as for medicinal purposes. It has spread rapidly due this planting and its prolific seed production.
HABITATS IN NEW ENGLANDEarly Successional Forest, Edge, Floodplain Forest, Herbaceous Wetland, Open Disturbed Area, Pasture, Planted Forest, Railroad Right-of-Way, Roadside, Vacant Lot, Wet Meadow, Yard or Garden
Hesperis matronalis is frequently found in riparian or wetland habitats, as well as rich open woods. It is also found along roads and in gardens, where it is still planted.
The biggest threat of Hesperis matronalis is that many people think that it is a native wildflower. It is planted in gardens, and is often sold in "native" wildflower mixes. These plants crowd out native vegetation due to their great numbers of seeds.
Documentation required: A specific photograph or mounted snippet of the habit or the flowers.
Best time for documentation: Spring, early summer.
Integrated Taxonomic Information System
Has general taxonomic information about the species.
The PLANTS database
General information and a map
Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources
General information including control
Virginia Tech Weed ID Guide
Description and images
Images and references
Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources
An article aimed at gardeners
Bailey, L. H. 1949. Manual of Cultivated Plants. Macmillan, New York. Dvorak, F. 1982. Study of Hesperis matronalis from the Belanske Tatry mountains Czechoslovakia. Biologia Bratislava 37 (5): 441-448. Fernald, M.L. 1950. Gray's Manual of Botany 8th edition. American Book Company, New York. Gleason H.A. and A.C. Cronquist. 1991. Manual of Vascular Plants of the Northeastern United States and Adjacent Canada. 2nd ed. New York Botanical Garden, Bronx, New York. Holmgren N.H. 1998. Illustrated Companion to Gleason and Cronquist's Manual. New York Botanical Garden, Bronx, New York. Magee D.W and H.E. Ahles. 1999. Flora of the Northeast. University of Massachusetts Press, Amherst. Mitchell, R.J. and D.P. Ankeny. 2001. Effects of local conspecific density on reproductive success in Penstemon digitalis and Hesperis matronalis. Ohio Journal of Science 101 (2): 22-27. Newcomb N. 1977. Newcomb's Wildflower Guide. Little Brown, Boston. Peterson R.T. and M. McKenny. 1968. A field Guide to Wildflowers of Northeastern and North-central North America. Houghton Mifflin, Boston. USDA, NRCS. 2001. The PLANTS Database, Version 3.1. (http://plants.usda.gov). National Plant Data Center, Baton Rouge, LA 70874-4490 USA.