Spiderwort (Tradescantia spp.)
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Spiderwort is an erect perennial wildflower. Its showy, bluish-purple flowers are three-petaled and born in clusters atop branched stems. Flowers may be blue, purple, pink or even white. Each flower has six dark bluish-purple stamens; the filaments are covered with sticky hairs and the anthers are bright yellow. Leaves are simple, light green and strap-like, giving the plant a grassy appearance, particularly when not in bloom.
Spiderwort is not only attractive, it is also edible. Try the flowers fresh on a salad or candied for a sweet treat. Stems and leaves can be eaten raw and leaves can also be cooked. The leaves are mucilaginous; the “juice” can be used to soothe insect bites in the same way one would use aloe.
Spiderwort is very attractive to bees. And like all species in the dayflower family, it is ephemeral, meaning its flowers stay open only one day. Four species of spiderwort are native to Florida, including Hairyflower spiderwort (T. hirsutiflora) in the Panhandle, and Bluejacket or Ohio spiderwort (T. ohiensis), the most common spiderwort found throughout North and Central Florida.
Did you know that the stamens in a spiderwort flower can detect radiation? Low level exposure will turn the bluish filament hairs on the stamen pink!
Family: Commelinaceae (Dayflower family)
Native range: Nearly throughout Panhandle, north and Central Florida
To see where natural populations of spiderwort have been vouchered, visit florida.plantatlas.usf.edu.
Hardiness: 8-9 (occasionally 10)
Soil: Dry to moderately most, well-drained soils
Exposure: Full sun to light shade
Growth habit: 1-2’ tall
Propagation: Seed, division
Garden tips: Spiderwort is a great addition to any landscape because it can bloom year-round in many parts of Florida. To keep plants looking healthy, cut them back in late summer (or when they appear to stop blooming). They will bounce back in fall. Spiderwort spreads easily, but if kept under control, it can be used as a border plant. It is striking in mass when in bloom.
Spiderwort is often available from nurseries that specialize in Florida native plants. Visit www.plantrealflorida.org to find a nursery in your area.