Unknown Flower (ID: Spiderwort - Thanks Irina Hynes)

12 Fascinating Facts About Spiderwort

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The spiderwort plant is a unique and interesting perennial that makes a great addition to any garden. With its grassy foliage and beautiful blue-purple flowers, spiderwort provides color from spring through fall.

Beyond its ornamental virtues, the spiderwort plant has a long history of traditional uses and is rich in symbolic meaning. Let’s explore some of the most fascinating facts about this delightful plant!

1. Its Name Comes from Its Flowers

The common name “spiderwort” comes from the plant’s flowers, which have long stamen filaments that resemble a spider’s web or nest.

The genus name, Tradescantia, honors John Tradescant, an English naturalist and gardener who introduced many new plants to Europe in the early 17th century.

2. It Has a Rich Native History

Spiderwort is native to the eastern United States and Canada. Native American tribes traditionally used spiderwort for a variety of medicinal purposes, including as a poultice for insect bites and stings.

Spiderwort also held symbolic meaning in Native American myth and ritual. It is associated with honesty, truth, and the revealing of secrets.

3. Spiderwort Loves the Shade

Although spiderwort will grow in full sun, it thrives in partial shade. Dappled sunlight under trees is an ideal environment. Too much hot afternoon sun can cause the leaves to yellow.

Plant spiderwort near the edges of wooded areas or use it as an underplanting for taller flowers and shrubs. The shade will keep spiderwort looking lush and happy all season.

blue spiderwort

4. It Spreads Easily

Once established, spiderwort readily self-seeds and spreads via underground rhizomes. It’s not considered invasive, but can spread aggressively under the right conditions.

To control spread, simply pull up unwanted seedlings. You can also divide mature clumps every 2-3 years to contain spiderwort.

5. You Can Eat It

Spiderwort is non-toxic to humans and animals. The young leaves and flowers are edible and can be used as a salad green or garnish.

However, the plant does contain insoluble calcium oxalate crystals similar to spinach and rhubarb. Eating too much raw spiderwort can cause mouth irritation or gastric distress in sensitive individuals.

6. It Closes Up at Night

The flowers of spiderwort close each evening and reopen the following morning. This circadian rhythm prevents self-pollination and gives nocturnal pollinators a chance to do their work.

Timelapse videos clearly demonstrate how the blossoms open and close over a 24-hour cycle. It’s a fascinating process to observe!

7. The Flowers Don’t Last Long

An individual spiderwort blossom only remains open for about a day before wilting. Thankfully, each stem produces a continual succession of buds over several weeks. Deadheading spent blooms encourages more flowering.

So while the flowers themselves are ephemeral, a healthy spiderwort plant will give you a steady supply of those delightful blossoms.

8. It Comes in Lots of Varieties

From the wild species to modern hybrids, there are over 70 registered spiderwort cultivars to choose from. Varieties differ in bloom color, leaf variegation, plant size, and more.

Some popular spiderwort varieties include T. ohiensisT. pallida, and T. ‘Pink Profusion’. Have fun collecting different types for your garden!

9. Spiderwort Can Be an Annual or Perennial

Spiderwort is perennial in zones 6-9. It dies back completely in colder winter areas. Fortunately, you can grow spiderwort as an annual and allow it to self-seed for the following year.

Where winters are mild, spiderwort remains evergreen. The foliage takes on reddish-bronze hues in fall and winter before new growth appears in spring.

10. It’s Easy to Propagate

Spiderwort is very easy to propagate from seed or divisions. Seeds can be directly sown in the garden after final frost. No pre-treatment is necessary, though some gardeners cold stratify seeds for faster germination.

Mature spiderwort plants can be divided in spring or fall. Generous divisions readily take root and establish quickly.

11. It Has Medicinal Uses

Modern research has shown extracts from spiderwort plants have antimicrobial, anti-inflammatory, and anticancer properties.

While human trials are still needed, these early findings show promise for potential medicinal applications. Spiderwort may yet prove as useful to modern medicine as it was to ancient healers!

12. Spiderwort Makes a Great Cut Flower

Harvest spiderwort stems once buds start to open. Place in water immediately and buds will continue opening into gorgeous blooms that last around 5 days.

The blue-violet colors are stunning in floral arrangements. Cut flowers also make whimsical gifts for garden-loving friends.

With its rich history and wealth of appealing traits for gardens, it’s clear why spiderwort continues to fascinate plant enthusiasts today! Give spiderwort a try and see why so many gardeners have fallen in love with this unique plant.

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