Tradescantia virginiana L.

Virginia Spiderwort

Tradescantia virginiana plant

Family - Commelinaceae

Stems - Single or multiple from the base, from thickened roots, to 30cm tall, erect, herbaceous, glabrous basally, puberulent at the apex, slightly zig-zag. Hairs of the stem with thickened pustulate bases, multicellular (of 2-3 cells).

Leaves - Alternate, sessile, sheathing at the base, with the blades narrower than their flattened and unfolded sheaths. Sheaths glabrous, with long pilose hairs on the margins. Leaf blades linear, grass-like, sparsely hairy, with long cilia on the margins basally, to +30cm long, to +/-1.5cm broad, entire, green above, silvery-green below with parallel venation.

Tradescantia virginiana sheathLeaf sheath.

Inflorescence - Terminal umbel of 2-many flowers. Flowers subtended by 1-2 foliaceous bracts. Bracts sessile, pubescent, broader and shorter than the leaves. Flowers opening a few at a time. Pedicels pinkish-green, +/-2.5cm long, densely spreading pubescent with short and long multicellular hairs.

Flowers - Petals 3, purple to pinkish-red, broadly ovate, to 2cm long and broad, glabrous, spreading. Stamens 6, erect. Filaments +/-6mm long, purple, glabrous in the apical 1/2, densely pubescent with long, purple, multicellular hairs in the basal 1/2. Anthers yellow, 2-lobed, +2.5mm broad. Ovary light green, glabrous, 2mm long, +/-1.3mm broad. Style +3mm long, glabrous, purplish. Sepals 3, to 1.5cm long, +/-7mm broad, elliptic, entire, slightly inflated, acute, densely pubescent externally, glabrous internally, distinct.

Tradescantia virginiana flowers

Tradescantia virginiana flower close

Tradescantia virginiana calyxCalyx.

Flowering - April - June.

Habitat - Mesic to dry upland forests, shaded ledges of bluffs, open rocky woods, glade edges, railroads.

Origin - Native to U.S.

Other info. - This striking species can be found mainly in the eastern half of Missouri in counties that border the Missouri and Mississippi rivers. The plant can be identified by its small size, pubescent sepals, and narrow leaves. This species seems to prefer acidic soils but would do well in cultivation and makes an attractive garden specimen.

Photographs taken at Whetstone Creek Conservation Area, Callaway County, MO., 4-27-04 and 5-4-04.