Tradescantia virginiana L.
Ephemerum congestum Moench
Tradescantia brevicaulis Raf.
Tradescantia congesta (Moench) D. Don
Tradescantia rupestris Raf.
Tradescantia speciosa Salisb.
Tradescantia virginiana L. var. alba Hook. ex Raf.
Tradescantia virginiana L. var. barbata Raf.
Spiderworts are named for the resemblance of their leaves to a squatting spider. The genus Tradescantia is named for John Tradescant, a gardener for Charles I of England. There are about 71 species.
Identification: Virginia spiderworts are 8-36" (20-91 cm) high. Leaves are long and narrow, dark or olive green, with parallel veins, like wide grass blades. They are up to 12" (30 cm) × 1" (2.5 cm). Flowers are blue or purple, ¾-2" (1.9-5 cm) in diameter, with three petals and six stamens, each with yellow anthers. There are two bracts beneath each flower. Each flower lasts only a single day.
Here are a few species:
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|Plant||Up to 24" (60 cm) tall. Has smooth stems with several joints||8-20" (20-50 cm) high||8-36" (20-91 cm) high|
|Flowers||Bright blue to rose or purple, about ¾" (1.9 cm) in diameter, with three petals and six stamens with yellow anthers.||Blue to purple flowers about ¾" (1.9 cm) in diameter, with six stamens with yellow anthers. Small hairs are on various parts of the flower. All petals are equal in size.||Blue or purple, ¾-2" (1.9-5 cm) in diameter, with three petals and six stamens, each with yellow anthers. There are two bracts beneath each flower|
|Leaves||Long and narrow, with a whitish covering||2-5" (5-12 cm) long, sometimes much longer, and narrow, like blades of grass||Long and narrow, dark or olive green, with parallel veins, like wide grass blades. Up to 12" (30 cm) × 1" (2.5 cm)|
USDA Zones: 4-9
|Habitats||Plains, prairies, disturbed sites||Open brush, woods and wooded slopes, especially pine woods||Prairies, thickets, woodland edges, power line clearences|
Edibility: Leaves and stems are edible, either fresh or cooked.
Tradescantia virginiana on Missouriplants.com
Tradescantia virginiana at the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center
Tradescantia virginiana at Illinois Wildflowers
Tradescantia virginiana at the Missouri Botanical Garden
Tradescantia virginiana on Plants for a Future, a resource and information centre for edible and otherwise useful plants
Tradescantia virginiana at the University of Wisconsin's Robert W. Freckmann Herbarium
Tradescantia virginiana on the USDA Plants Database (PDF)
Tradescantia virginiana on eFloras
Newcomb, Lawrence, Morrison, Gordon (Illus.), Newcomb’s Wildflower Guide, Little, Brown and Company, 1977, p. 120
Tradescantia virginiana description by Thomas H. Kent, last updated 25 May 2020.
Range: Zones 4-9: