Tradescantia virginiana

Botanical Name : Tradescantia virginiana
Family: Commelinaceae
Genus: Tradescantia
Species: T. virginiana
Kingdom: Plantae
Order: Commelinales

Synonyms: T. virginica.

Common Name:Spiderwort, Virginia spiderwort

Habitat : Tradescantia virginiana is native to the eastern United States.It is fairly common in central and southern Illinois, while it is uncommon or absent in northern and extreme western Illinois (see Distribution Map). Habitats include moist to mesic black soil prairies, sand prairies, savannas, thickets, openings and edges of woodlands, sandstone cliffs, and powerline clearances through woodland areas. This plant usually doesn’t stray far from areas with trees and shrubby vegetation.

Description:
Tradescantia virginiana is a herbaceous perennial forb/herb, with alternate, simple leaves, on tubular stems. The flowers are blue, purple, or white, borne in summer.This plant is up to 2½’ tall and unbranched, except for 1 or 2 small side stems near the inflorescence. The central stem is round and glabrous, although scattered long hairs may occur where the leaves wrap around the stems, or a little below. The leaves are dark green or olive green, up to 12″ long and 1″ across, with parallel venation and smooth margins. They are linear to broadly linear, but wider at the base and narrowing to a pointed tip. They often bend downward toward the middle….

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At the apex of the central stem or side stems, is a small cluster of violet flowers. They often droop from their slender hairy pedicels. These are subtended by two leaf-like bracts that are up to 6″ long and slightly more than ½” across. Each flower is about 1″ across and has 3 rounded violet petals. Toward the center, there are 6 yellow stamens and spidery violet hairs. Each flower opens up during the morning and closes during the early afternoon on sunny days, but may remain open longer on cloudy days or when it remains in the shade. There is no floral scent. The blooming period occurs from late spring to mid-summer, and lasts about 1½ months. During this time, the flowers bloom sporadically, rather than all at once. The seed capsules split open into 3 parts, each releasing 3-6 oval to oblong, brown seeds. The seeds normally fall only a short distance from the mother plant. The root system is fleshy and fibrous, producing occasional offshoots nearby.

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Cultivation:
Tradescantia virginiana  likes most moist soils but can adapt to drier garden soils. Plants may be propagated from seed but they are more easily started from cuttings or divisions.It likes partial sun and moist to mesic conditions. It also tolerates light shade, and full sun if the soil is sufficiently moist. Growth is best in fertile loamy soil, but some sand or gravel is acceptable. During droughts, the tips or outer lengths of the leaves may turn yellow or brown. This plant is easy to grow and rarely troubled by foliar disease.

Propagation:
Seed – sow spring in a cold frame. When they are large enough to handle, prick the seedlings out into individual pots and grow them on in the greenhouse for their first winter. Plant them out into their permanent positions in late spring or early summer, after the last expected frosts. Division in spring or autumn. Cuttings of young shoots, July in a frame. They root easily and quickly.

Edible Uses: Leaves – raw or cooked. The very young shoots and leaves can be chopped and added to salads or cooked as a potherb. Flowers – raw. They make an attractive edible garnish.

Medicinal Uses:
Traditionally, the root of spiderwort was used by the Cherokees as a folk cancer remedy. A tea of the root was considered laxative.  It was also mashed, and applied as a poultice on insect bites.  A tea of the leaves was drunk by the Cherokees for stomachache from overeating.  The root of T. occidentalis served the Meskwaki as a diuretic.  Insanity was treated with spiderwort. A gum exudes from the root.  The treatment consisted of making an incision on the head, then inserting a piece of the gum into the wound as a remedy for craziness.

Disclaimer:The information presented herein is intended for educational purposes only. Individual results may vary, and before using any supplements, it is always advisable to consult with your own health care provider.

Resources:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tradescantia_virginiana
http://www.illinoiswildflowers.info/savanna/plants/va_spiderwort.htm
http://www.herbnet.com/Herb%20Uses_RST.htm

http://www.pfaf.org/user/Plant.aspx?LatinName=Tradescantia+virginiana

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