Hesperis matronalis / Damastbloem

Hesperis matronalis, Damastbloem, Nachtviolier

Hesperis matronalis wordt in het Nederlands vaak damastbloem of nachtviolier genoemd. Het is een groenblijvende vaste plant met een bossige opgaande habitus en donkergroene, behaarde en getande, elliptische bladeren. Deze Hesperis bloeit van mei tot juni met kleine, enkele, aangenaam geurende witte bloemen en houdt van een standplaats in de volle zon of halfschaduw. De plant verkiest een goed doorlaatbare, neutrale tot kalkhoudende grondsoort, is goed winterhard, zaait zich (te) goed uit, is zeewind en luchtverontreiniging tolerant en is goed toepasbaar als borderplant en langs de bosrand. Hesperis matronalis is een kortlevende plant die een aangename geur verspreidt en veel nachtvlinders, bijen e.a insecten aantrekt.

De naam “Damastbloem” is een verbastering van het Franse “Violettes des dames”. Geurende bloemen werden vroeger nogal eens betiteld als “violen of violieren”. Zodoende werd de Damastbloem toen tot “Viola matronalis”. Dat “matronalis” kwam van “matrona” hetgeen soms nog in gebruik is als “matrone”. Werd hier vroeger wel “Nachtviool” genoemd. Violieren zijn inderdaad nauw verwant.

De naam “Hesperis” is afkomstig van het Griekse “Hesperia” oftewel het “Avondland”, in het westen gelegen in de oudheid (Italië en later Spanje).

Hesperis matronalis is a herbaceous plant species in the mustard family, Brassicaceae. It has numerous common names, including dame's rocket, damask violet, dame's-violet, dames-wort, dame's gilliflower, night-scented gilliflower, queen's gilliflower, rogue's gilliflower, summer lilac, sweet rocket, mother-of-the-evening and winter gilliflower. Plants are biennials or short-lived perennials, native to Eurasia and cultivated in many other areas of the world for their attractive, spring-blooming flowers. In some of those areas, it has escaped cultivation and become a weed species. The genus name Hesperis is Greek for evening, and the name was probably given because the scent of the flowers becomes more conspicuous towards evening.

Rocket, Garden / A Modern Herbal Mrs Grieve

Botanical: Hesperis matronalis 

Family: N.O. Cruciferae

---Synonyms---Eruca sativa. Dame's Rocket. White Rocket. Purple Rocket. Rucchette. Roquette. Dame's Violet. Vesper-Flower. 

---Part Used---Whole plant. 

---Habitat---Central Europe.

---Description---These biennial plants are natives of Italy, but are found throughout most of Central and Mediterranean Europe, and in Britain and Russian Asia as escapes from gardens. The stems are very erect, and grow from 2 to 3 feet in height, with spearshaped, pointed leaves. The flowers, white purple, or variegated, are produced in a simple thyrse at the top of the stalk. Johnson wrote of a double-white variety in 1633. The Siberian Rocket is almost identical. The seeds are like those of mustard, but larger.

The leaves are very acrid in taste, and in many countries, especially in Germany, they are eaten like cress in salads.

In the language of flowers, the Rocket has been taken to represent deceit, since it gives out a lovely perfume in the evening, but in the daytime has none. Hence its name of Hesperis, or Vesper-Flower, given it by the Ancients.

For eating purposes, the plant should be gathered before flowering, but for medicinal use, when in flower.

---Constituents---The properties of the cultivated Rocket resemble those of the Cochlearea, but its taste is less acrid and piquant.

---Medicinal Action and Uses---In former days doctors combined with poets in attributing marvellous virtues to this plant. It is regarded principally as antiscorbutic.

A strong dose will cause vomiting, and may be taken in the place of ipecacuanha. Powdered, the effect is less strong than that of mustard.

---Other Species---The Sea-Rocket or Cakile maritima, Eruca marina, often found on sandhills, is very acrid, and can be used as an antiscorbutic, being prescribed in scrofulous affections, lymphatic disturbances, and the malaise that follows malaria. It is important not to confuse it with the real Rocket.

Pfaff database: Sweet Rocket, Dames rocket,

Young leaves - raw. Rich in vitamin C, they are used as a cress substitute in salads. A rather bitter flavour, though many people like the extra tang it gives to salads. For culinary purposes, the leaves should be picked before the plant flowers. The seed can be sprouted and added to salads[183]. The seed contains 50% of an edible oil - there is a potential for cultivation.

Medicinal Uses

Diaphoretic;  Diuretic.

The leaves are antiscorbutic, diaphoretic and diuretic. They are best harvested when the plant is in flower[244].

Other Uses

Essential;  Oil.

An essential oil from the seed is used in perfumery. The plant is cultivated for this purpose.


Dame’s rocket has an interesting history in terms of its names. It was called the Vesper-flower, because it emits its perfume in the evening, and this is how the genus got its name “Hesperis” means evening; “matronalis” means of the mother and the mother in question is probably Eve, who was a symbol of deceit, having tempted Adam to eat the apple which lead to the Fall from grace and the Garden of Eden. Writing in the 17th century, the English herbalist, Nicholas Culpeper calls this plant Eveweed, and says rather disparagingly that gardeners of his time called it double rocket.

  Dame’s rocket can grow to heights of more than 3 feet and is a native of Europe and Asia. It has naturalized in North America and is invasive in several states. In Britain it has been cultivated for centuries, and so has become naturalized in some places being a garden escapee.

   This plant is also called night-scented/dame’s/queen’s/rogues’ gillyflower and hardly surprisingly is a symbol of deceit in the Language of Flowers. It is also called damask violet, dame’s violet, summer lilac and the evening/ winter gillyflower.

  The young leaves are edible and best used raw in salads although you shouldn’t eat too many of them as they can cause vomiting. The flowers which may be lilac, pink, white or blue are also edible. The seeds of this plant contain 50 per cent essential oil which is used in the perfume industry. The flowers may be cut and will give the room in which they are placed a clove-like smell.

  The seeds were also once steeped in vinegar and then used to get rid of freckles. In Mediaeval times they were considered good antidotes for insect stings and snake bites.

   The plant is a member of the Brassicaceae or Cruciferae family making it a relative of mustard, savoy cabbage, red cabbage, broccoli, kale, kohlrabi, brussel sprouts, flixweed or fluxweed, collard or spring greens, swede, cauliflower, turnips, garden cress, watercress, lady's smocks, Shepherd's purse, and a whole host of others.

  Its leaves are rich in vitamin C so like scurvy-grass it was a useful antiscorbutic and cultivated partly for this purpose. It grows well as a companion plant to foxgloves and clary sage, and would have grown with them in Mediaeval monastery gardens.   

  This is what Culpeper has to say about the uses of this herb:-

“Government and virtues. It is a plant of Mars, yet it is accounted a good wound-herb. Some eat it with bread and butter on account of its taste, which resembles garlic: Its juice, taken a spoonful at a time, is excellent against obstructions of the viscera: it works by urine. In some places it is a constant ingredient in clysters.” (enemas)

Dodonaeus over Damastbloem

Viola matronales, Viola hyemalis, Mastbloemen (Joncfrouwen vilieren, Winter violen)

 Mastbloemen hebben groote breede swertgruene bladeren rontsomme wat ghekerft/ tusschen den welcken die stelen voortcomen/ met ghelijcken bladeren beset/ die huer in veel tacxkens verdeylende op dopperste voortbringen schoone welrieckende bloemkens/ den Vilieren/ van fatsoene ghelijck van coluere som ende meest sneewit/ som lijfvervwich/ som roodachtich/ naer die welcke langhe ronde hauwkens volghen daer tsaet in leyt.


Mastbloemen worden hier te lande meest in alle hoven ghevonden.


Dese bloemen bloeyen in Meye/ ende dicwils alle den zoomer duer.


Dese bloemen worden nu ter tijt gheheeten Violae Matronales. In Hoochduytsch Winterviolen/ ende daer naer van sommigen Violae hyemales. In Neerduytsch Mastbloemen/ ende naer den Latijnschen naem Joncfrouwen vilieren.

Natuere ende Werckinghe

A   Dese Mastbloemen en worden in der medecijnen niet ghebruyckt/ ende daer om es huer natuere/ cracht ende werckinghe noch ter tijt onbekent.