I found this single specimen of a Spider Flower plant growing along the bank of the Tar River in Pitt county NC. The background is the muddy water of the river.
Spider flower is a tender annual that grows up to 5 ft (1.5 m) in height. The palmate leaves are composed of 5 leaflets each 5-6 in (12.7-15 cm) long. The delicate flowers are held in cluster at the stem tips. Flowers are 1-2 in (2.5-5 cm) wide with long, 2-3 in (5-7.6 cm) graceful stamens that are the “legs” of this spidery flower. The buds at the lower end of the flower stem bloom first and then proceed sequentially toward the tip which continues to grow and extend over the course of the season. Slender seed pods quickly follow the flowers, hanging on long stems they are arranged around the stem like a bottlebush with limp bristles. Selections are available in a range of colors including white, pink, rose and lavender. Many varieties are colored when they bloom and then fade, some to white, over the course of a day. Named cultivars include ‘Violet Queen’, ‘White Queen’, ‘Rosea’, and ‘Alba’.
Spider flower is native to an area of South America stretching from southern Brazil west into Argentina. This plant has naturalized in scattered areas across the southeastern U.S.
Cleome prefers light, fertile soils but is adaptable to most conditions (except soggy and persistently moist).
Light: Likes bright sunny situations but will tolerate some shade in hot climates.
Moisture: Needs well drained soil. Doesn’t require a lot of moisture, water when dry.
Hardiness: USDA Zones 8 – 11 where it will reseed. Grown as a tender annual in Zones 4-7.
Propagation: By seed, start indoors in colder zones and plant in garden when frost has past. Space plants about 1 ft (0.3 m) apart.
Note: This description was revised due to the fact that I was originally told by a flower enthusiast that the plant was a Cat’s Whiskers.