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
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