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I have been interested in nature for most of my life but since I retired I spend as much time as I can exploring the nature reserves and wildlife hotspots of my adopted home, Dorset in southern England. Whilst out I record what I see and take snaps where I can (I am no photographer!) and that forms the basis of my Nature of Dorset website. When I find something new I like to research it and write about it in my nature notes, it is how I learn and hopefully you might find my notes helpful as well!

This website is for the people of Dorset interested in wildlife and for people from elsewhere interested in the wildlife of Dorset!

06 October, 2015

Dames Violet: evening fragrance

Dame's violet (Hesperis matronalis) is a member of the cabbage or crucifereae family; in fact it is one of a sub-group of the family we know as stocks and it is often cultivated in gardens. In Britain wild specimens are likely to be garden escapes. Being a cabbage the flower has four petals but, just to confuse, these petals can be coloured lilac, purple or white! The flowers are highly fragrant and that is where the link to violets comes in, not from the colour or shape of the flower as it is not related to the violet family in any way.
Flowering from May until August, Dame's violet can be found in the corner of fields and on waste ground, occasionally one might encounter it in hedgerows. This is not a rare plant but it is not one I encounter regularly. It can grow up to a metre in height and it can be a rather untidy plant towards the end of its flowering period. Where it occurs there are likely to be several plants.
Having established where the link to violets comes from (the scent) what about the Dame? Well, that refers to Damascus apparently, the Damask Violet being another name for it. When you look at the Latin name however, matronalis undoubtedly translates a maternal, hence 'dame' or the French for woman so I am a little confused! Hesperis comes from the Greek 

Read more: Dames Violet: evening fragrance