Robert W. Freckmann Herbarium
University of Wisconsin - Stevens Point

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Featured Plant: Tradescantia ohiensis Raf.

Blue-jacket, Common Spiderwort, Smooth Spiderwort

Tradescantia ohiensis Raf. - Spiderwort flowers Family: Commelinaceae or Spiderwort Family

Tradescantia: after John Tradescant (1608-1662), English gardener to King Charles I

ohiensis: for Ohio

Blue-jacket, Common Spiderwort, Smooth Spiderwort. Also known as snotweed or cow-slobbers.

 

In early Spring spiderwort looks like a clump of coarse weedy grass with its long pointed leavesTrasescantia ohioensis Raf.; leaves before its beautiful blue to purple-blue flowers emerge in late May to early June. The 3 petals of the flower are all the same size unlike its close relative, the Commelina. The leaves form a sheath which clasps the stem in an alternating sequence. Trasescantia ohioensis Raf.; leaf closeup The flower buds form in a dense cluster (cyme) at the top of the stem with the flowers opening a few at a time and lasting for only a day. The ripe seeds are enclosed  in drooping capsules each with 3 chambers.

The roots spread forming large patches that sometimes will cover a large area creating a blue sea of flowers.Trasescantia ohioensis Raf.; roots

Its name "snotgrass" and "cow-slobbers" describe the viscose sap. Trasescantia ohioensis Raf.; sapThe name "Spiderwort" came from the healing properties (wort) of the sap when used on spider bites.

 

Ethnobotany: This plant has been used in multiple herbal remedies. It is used as one ingredient to treat the kidneys as well as a treatment from female problems. A tea is  used to aid in digestion, a root poultice for cancer treatment, and the crushed leaves as a relief from insect bites especially spiders.

Other facts: Spiderwort has been found to detect natural radiation that conventional instruments don't. The GDR Corp. (Global Deactivation of Radiation Corp.) has done experiments to show that the normally blue or purple stamens turn pink in the presence of even small amounts of radiation. Trasescantia ohioensis Raf.; stamens Because of this NASA has used this plant to test for the "Influence of Zero Gravity on Mutation Process Using Controlled Gamma Ray Exposure".

 

Propagation: The roots spread to form a loose patch and can be split. The seeds can be easily collected when the pods have dried. Grows best in full sun but will tolerate some shade. It prefers a sandy soil but is quite adaptable to heavier and wetter areas.
 

Blooming Buddies include: Golden Alexanders (Zizia aurea (L.) W.D.J.Koch), Pussy-toes (Antennaria neglecta Greene), Fringed Puccoon (Lithospermum incisum Lehm.), Lyrate Rock-cress (Arabis lyrata L. ), Violet Wood-sorrel (Oxalis violacea L. ), and Shooting-Star (Dodecatheon meadia L. subsp. meadia)

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