Spiderwort Beauty


Sumner, United States

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Artist's Description

Spiderwort in the open woods near my home in northeast Iowa. USA

Tradescantia ohiensis
Dayflower family (Commelinaceae)

Description: This is a native perennial plant about 2-4’ tall and mostly unbranched, except toward the apex. The central stem is round, glabrous, and occasionally glaucous. The grey- or blue-green alternate leaves are up to 15" long and 1" across. They are linear, although wider at the base, where the leaves wrap around the stem in sheaths, than at the tip. They are also glabrous, with parallel venation and smooth margins, tending to bend downward towards the middle.

The light violet to blue-violet flowers occur in a small cluster on hairless flowering stems at the top of the plant. Underneath each inflorescence are 2 small bracts, each up to 3" long and less than ½" across. Each flower is about 1" across, with 3 rounded petals, 6 bright yellow anthers, and fine spidery violet hairs near the base. The flowers open up during the morning and close by the afternoon in sunny weather, but remain open longer on cloudy days. There is no floral scent. The blooming period occurs from late spring to mid-summer, and lasts about 1½ months, during which time only a few flowers are in bloom at the same time. The mature seed capsules split into 3 sections, each capsule releasing 3-6 oval to oblong, brown seeds. The root system is thick, fleshy, and fibrous, sending off occasional offshoots nearby.

Cultivation: The preference is full or partial sun, and moist to slightly dry conditions. The soil can contain loam, clay, gravel, or sand – this plant is very adaptable. Sometimes the leaves develop brown blotches or turn yellow in response to harsh weather conditions, competition from other plants, or age.

Range & Habitat: It is often found in moist to mesic black soil prairies. Other habitats include sandy black oak savannas, bur oak savannas, limestone glades, thickets and woodland borders, moist meadows near woods or rivers, roadside ditches, and areas along railroads (including the ballast). Plants are usually widely scattered, but sometimes appear in sizable colonies in disturbed areas.

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Artwork Comments

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