Spiderwort flowers have a very short life – only a single morning – but each plant will produce 20 or more flowers per stem. The petals quickly decompose after blooming.
With their flower parts in threes (three petals and six stamens), Spiderworts show they are in the Monocot class. Other typical monocots are lilies, irises, orchids and grasses. Monocot is short for monocotyledon, meaning “single seed leaf”. That amazing little package of life we call a seed contains an embryonic root (the radicle) and an embryonic stem (the plumule) with either one or two seed leaves (cotyledons) attached to it.
The seed leaves are the first thing to pop out of the ground when a seed germinates. They usually look quite different from the true leaves that the plant produces next. The seed leaves not only begin photosynthesis so the plant can prosper, but they also carry a quantity of stored food for the baby plant. The majority of families of higher plants are Dicots. When one of their seeds germinates, it produces a pair of seed leaves and their flower parts are in multiples of four or five.
Break the tip off a spiderwort leaf and wait for a drop of sap to appear, then touch it with your fingertip and notice how far you can stretch a thread of sap. This resemblance to a spider’s silk may explain where its name came from. The gooey quality of the sap definitely explains its familiar nickname of “cow slobber”.
The stems, leaves and flowers of spiderworts are edible. The herbage may be eaten raw or added to stews. The flowers (which may be either pink, blue or rose-purple) make an attractive edible garnish for salads.
Spiderworts are one of the native wildflowers that have made their way into the nursery trade. They may also be easily propagated from stem cuttings or seeds. They make an interesting addition to the home landscape. The genus of spiderworts is named for John Tradescant, who was gardener for King Charles I of England. He grew them from seed brought back from America and spiderworts are still popular in English gardens today.
Taken by the beach trail in Hamilton Ontario Canada with the Nikon D60 and the 55-200mm Nikkor lens.