Spiderwort is an herbaceous perennial that arises from a cluster of rather stout overwintering roots. Stems may be solitary or more commonly clumped, and usually grow unbranched, reaching heights up to 40 cm tall. Stems are smooth or bear scattered short hairs. Leaves are 2—5 per stem, attached by means of a leaf sheath that is 13 cm long. Leaf blades are dull green, elongate, ending in a gradually tapered tip, flat or keeled, smooth (without hairs), and 1—3.5 dm long by 0.5—2.5 cm wide. Flowers occur in tight clusters located at the stem apex; bracts similar to the leaves occur below each flower. Flowers are ephemeral, each lasting about one half day. However, flowers are produced in daily succession for several weeks. Each open flower is elevated above the cluster of buds and spent flowers on a hairy pedicel up to 3.5 cm long. The three sepals are green, ovate, and hairy; in open flowers, all but the sepal tips are hidden by the petals. Petals are also three in number, broadly ovate, 1.2 –1.8 cm long, and range from purple or blue to rose or white. Six stamens are clustered at the center of the flower; the densely bearded filaments are topped with yellow anthers. The threelobed superior ovary is usually obscured by the hairy stamens. After flowering, the petals dissolve into a few drops of purplish liquid and the pedicels recurve, positioning the developing capsular fruits below the cluster of leafy bracts. Capsules are 4—7 mm long, hairless, and yield 6 or fewer seeds.
Copyright © 2008, Virginia Native Plant Society. This article first appeared in Virginia Native Plant Society Brochure (2008), 1-3.
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Hayden, W. John. "2008 Wildflower of the Year: Virginia Spiderwort, Tradescantia virginiana." Virginia Native Plant Society Brochure, 2008, 1-3.