Tradescantia virginiana L.

Virginia Spiderwort


CC = 6
CW = 3
MOC = 30

© DETenaglia

Family - Commelinaceae

Habit - Perennial forb with thickened, fleshy roots.

Stems - Erect, to 40 cm, single or multiple from the base, glabrous basally, puberulent at the apex, slightly zig-zag.

Tradescantia_virginiana_roots.jpg Roots.

© SRTurner

Tradescantia_virginiana_stem.jpg Stem and leaf bases.

© SRTurner

Leaves - Alternate, sessile, to 40 cm, linear-lanceolate, sheathing at the base, the blade narrower than the flattened and unfolded sheath. Sheaths glabrous, with long pilose hairs on the margins. Blades entire, deep green, silvery-green with parallel venation below, glabrous or sparsely hairy, the margins ciliate.

Tradescantia_virginiana_leaf1.jpg Leaf adaxial.

© SRTurner

Tradescantia_virginiana_leaf2.jpg Leaf abaxial.

© SRTurner

Inflorescences - Terminal umbels of several flowers. Flowers subtended by 1-2 leaflike bracts indistinguishable from the leaves. Flowers opening a few at a time. Flower stalks pinkish-green, 1.5-3.5 cm long, densely pubescent with spreading, nonglandular hairs.

Tradescantia_virginiana_inflorescence.jpg Inflorescence.

© SRTurner

Tradescantia_virginiana_inflorescence2.jpg Inflorescence.

© SRTurner

Flowers - Actinomorphic. Sepals 3, 9-15 mm long, green, usually herbaceous and somewhat inflated, densely pubescent with nonglandular hairs. Petals 3, 12-18 mm long, broadly ovate, deep purple to purplish blue, less commonly reddish pink, glabrous. Stamens 6, erect. Filaments 6 mm long, purple, densely pubescent in the basal half with long, purple, multicellular hairs. Anthers yellow, 2-lobed, 2.5 mm broad. Ovary light green, glabrous, 2 mm long, 1.3 mm broad. Style 3 mm long, glabrous, purplish.

Tradescantia_virginiana_flowers.jpg Flowers.

© DETenaglia

Tradescantia_virginiana_flower_close.jpg Flower.

© DETenaglia

Tradescantia_virginiana_calyx.jpg Calyx.

© DETenaglia

Tradescantia_virginiana_stamens.jpg View of filament hairs.

© SRTurner

Fruits - Capsules 4-8 mm long, ovoid, 3-locular. Seeds 3-6 per capsule, 2-3 mm long, oblong to ovoid and somewhat flattened with a depression on 1 side, the surfaces undulate to bluntly several-ribbed.

Tradescantia_virginiana_seeds.jpg Seeds.

© SRTurner

Flowering - April - June.

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

Origin - Native to the U.S.

Lookalikes - Several other species of Tradescantia.

Other info. - This striking species can be found in Missouri mainly in the eastern Ozarks and in counties bordering the Missouri and Mississippi rivers. Beyond Missouri it is scattered throughout most of the eastern continental U.S. The plant can be identified by its small size, sepals which are hairy but not glandular, and narrow leaves. This species seems to prefer acidic soils but would do well in cultivation and make for an attractive garden specimen. It is known to hybridize with T. ohiensis, but this is rare.

Photographs taken at Whetstone Creek Conservation Area, Callaway County, MO., 4-27-04 and 5-4-04 (DETenaglia); also at Danville Conservation Area, Montgomery County, MO, 4-18-2017 (SRTurner). Thanks to KBildner for supplying seeds to photograph.