Dame's Violet is a biennial occasionally a short-lived perennial preferring the semi-shade. It grown in hefgerows, woodland and waste areas. It is native to Europe and Asia, but is now widespread due to cultivation as a garden plant for the sweet-scented flowers that are most fragrant in the evening (Hesperis is Greek for evening); when dried they can be used in potpourri. The Dame part of the common name is said to have arisen because it was grown by the 'ladies of the manor'. There are cultivated forms with larger flowers and a double-flowered cultivar exists.
The bright green leaves are lanceolate with short or no petioles and toothed edges, arranged alternately on the stems. The upper and lower surfaces have short hairs. In the first year it grows as a basal rosette with the flowering stem growing the following season.
The flowers occur from May to August and have the four petals typical of the Brassica family. The colours can vary with shades of purple and lavender to white. They are arranged in a terminal panicle atop stems that can reach 100cm.
Although it is called Sweet Rocket by some, this is not for the flavour. The leaves can be eaten in salads, but are rather bitter. The flowers can be used in salads and desserts, mainly to add a bit of colour.
As it is now naturalised in many non-native regions it is considered a weed by some. Hoe or hand pull before flowering, remove uprooted plants if flowers or seed capsules are present.
A contact Weedkiller should work on the early growth in the first season, but a translocated agent such as Glyphosate would be best later.