As I was driving around Minnesota yesterday, I saw this pops of color in the ditches that were NOT there a few days ago.  After a bit of digging, I found out what these bursts of purple are that are showing up throughout Minnesota, Iowa, Illinois, and Wisconsin right now.  Psst...they are not phlox.  They are gorgeous though!

Jessica Williams
Jessica Williams

What Are The Purple Flowers Popping Up In Ditches All Over Iowa, Illinois, Minnesota, and Wisconsin?

After I came home from work today, I noticed that the gorgeous purple flowers I saw in the ditches are also growing at the back of my property.  I love the pop of color they are giving against the green background of grass...and weeds.  (We are trying to keep those under control but let's just say, this is a continuous work in progress!)

I didn't plant these by seed or find them at the local nursery to put in my yard.  Nature created this one all by itself!  I did some digging (aka Googling) to figure out what the purpleness was that showed up in my yard and thought I'd pass the info along just in case you were wondering as well.  Unfortunately, the news I found isn't all that great.

Jessica Williams
Jessica Williams

A few characteristics of this mystery, purple flower in Minnesota, Wisconsin, and Iowa:

  • The smell of the flowers are purely amazing!
  • The flower features 4 petals.
  • You can find the flower in a variety of different colors - white, light purple, darker purple

Why isn't this purple flower a phlox?

In my search to figure out what this flower was, and before I went to Google, I asked a few people what they thought the name of this might be.  Every person I spoke with thought that it was phlox.

According to, phlox looks close to the mystery purple flower but one of the biggest differences is that the petals on a phlox have a total of 5.

Here are a few photos of phlox...

Photo by Ka'Ron Thompson on Unsplash
Photo by Ka'Ron Thompson on Unsplash
Photo by Sardar Faizan on Unsplash
Photo by Sardar Faizan on Unsplash

The mysterious purple flower has four petals...


Here Are a Few of the Names of the Mysterious Purple Flower Found in Minnesota, Illinois, Iowa, and Wisconsin

"Mysterious Purple Flower" is NOT the official name but it does have a very long list of other names it is known for.  According to Google and Wikipedia, below are a few of the other names:

  • dames 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,
  • Good & Plenties,
  • and winter gilliflower.

Is dames rocket an invasive plant in Minnesota, Illinois, Iowa, and Wisconsin?

A part of me is sad because although this gorgeous purple flower is making me smile, it is also one that needs to be removed.  Unfortunately, dames rocket is an invasive plant in Minnesota, Illinois, Iowa, and Wisconsin.

In Wisconsin, it is classed as restricted, i.e. an invasive species that is already widely established in the state, and causes, or has the potential to cause significant environmental or economic harm.

- Wikipedia

Check out the map below of the sightings of the invasive species, dames rocket.

Are These Purple Flowers Actually Dangerous?

The purple flowers might be lovely to look at but if you are out on a walk or trying to pull these out of areas, be sure to use gloves.  Individuals with sensitive skin can see irritation from contact.  And, if you are walking through the woods with your dog or on a path where Dames Rocket is encroaching, this plant is also toxic for our canine friends.

Dame's Rocket, while a visual treat for gardeners, harbors a darker side for our canine companions. Toxic substances within the plant can lead to a range of health issues if ingested by dogs. Dogs might stumble upon Dame's Rocket during their outdoor adventures, especially in areas where it grows wild.


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