Love is like wildflowers; It’s often found in the most unlikely places
Ralph Waldo Emerson
As we roll into March, I am wishing my visitor, Winter, would take his leave. He has been around long enough and his white presence over the landscape is getting to be a bit much. I am longing to see my next visitors; those early spring blooms especially the wildflowers. As I think about spring, I am happy to profile another favorite wildflower for Wildflower Wednesday hosted by Gail@Clay and Limestone. I am highlighting Ohio Spiderwort or Tradescantia ohiensis. Spiderwort is also known by the names: Bluejacket, Cow Slobber, Indian Paint, Widow’s Tears, Moses in the Bulrushes, Dayflower and Trinity Flower.
Tradescantia ohiensis is part of the family Commelinaceae (Spiderwort Family is also known as the Dayflower Family). These flowers are certainly dayflowers as they open in the morning, and by afternoon with strong sun they close. If the plant is flowering in the heat, the flowers usually shrivel to a jelly like substance. I find the best time to see spiderwort flowering profusely is on a cloudy or rainy day.
Ohio Spiderwort is the most common species of Tradescantia growing in the wild in the United States. While there are native spiderwort, many that we grow in our gardens are actually a cross between the Ohio and Virginia Spiderwort. These cultivars have different bloom colors and larger flowers than their native relatives. The odorless flowers can be white, pink, or purple, but most are bright blue, with three petals and six yellow anthers. I adore the contrast of the yellow and blue as seen above.
The foliage is branched with strong stems that look like blades of grass. The native varieties have bluish green foliage where I find the cultivars resemble a green grass color with some cultivars now sporting yellow to chartreuse foliage. The native plant stems can be weak and tower about a foot over the plant, which reaches heights of 2-3 feet. Ohio Spiderwort is said to be taller and spindlier than the other species.
I have one native Ohio Spiderwort and many cultivars in my garden, but I love them all. These beautiful plants are thought of as old fashioned flowers, and are not like other garden or wild flowers I grow.
Spiderworts are easy to grow in any soil or light conditions including sand and clay. In the wild they can be found in dry, sandy, sunny sites where they will bloom for a short time. Those found in moist woods and roadsides seem to grow the longest. For more flowers, you want to plant them in sunnier spots. Of course be careful as the native spiderworts can become aggressive if planted in moist rich soil.
In my garden the spiderworts enjoy wet, humid conditions, which seem perfect for a long bloom period from April to June. If they are cutback after flowering, they may even rebloom in the fall.
The plants grow in clumps and are slow to spread. Dividing the clumps are the best way to propagate these beauties. Divide them in early fall or spring. I have read that Tradescantias will hybridise in just about any combination, which may make for some interesting flowers in spring. If you want to collect seed, you need the native species, as the hybrids do not set seed.
Where They Are Found
The first spiderwort described in the New World was, T. virginiana or Virginia Spiderwort. It is native to the eastern United States and southern Ontario. It was introduced to Europe in 1629, where it was cultivated as a garden flower.
T. ohiensis occurs from Massachusetts to Minnesota and Nebraska, and south to Florida and Texas. Look for this wildflower in moist meadows, fields, prairies, open woods, river banks and roadsides.
It is beautiful when grown in your garden with wild geraniums, native penstemon, monarda, big bluestem grass, liatris, echinacea, and other meadow or prairie flowers.
Benefits to Wildlife
Native spiderworts are browsed by many native pollinators. I find pollinators constantly on my native Ohio Spiderwort for months on end. Long-tongued bees, especially bumblebees are very important to this flower. Other visitors include many other bees, Syrphid flies and butterflies.
Pests or diseases are virtually nonexistent with spiderwort, but slugs, deer and rabbit seem to browse the early foliage. Others who may browse the plant are box turtles and livestock as the foliage is non-toxic. I have to treat the foliage in early spring with a non-toxic spray to keep the critters at bay so the plants can grow. Critters do not seem so interested in the foliage as the plant grows bigger.
Folklore and Tales
The genus name honors both English naturalists John Tradescant the Elder and John Tradescant the Younger. In the 1700s Linnaeus named the genus after John Tradescant the Younger.
Another meaning of the common name refers to the leaves twisted at the joints that resemble spider legs, and yet another meaning is in regards to the folklore that the plant cured the bite of a spider.
The common name, widow’s tears, is thought to come from the fact that the flowers don’t dry up but turn into a blob of jelly.
The Lakota made a blue paint from the flowers that they used to decorate their clothing, which is how it got the name Indian Paint.
Native American tribes like the Cherokee used spiderwort for food and medicine: mashed and used on insect bites, a paste made from the roots was used to treat cancer and a tea was used to treat stomach-aches or as laxative when they over ate. Spiderwort was also used to treat “female problems” and for kidney trouble.
Spiderworts are great indicators of radiation and pollution levels because their flowers are highly sensitive to radiation and higher levels of pollution.
The leaves and stems are reported to be edible either fresh or cooked, especially the tender early foliage. And the flowers are an edible and look pretty in salads.
Because each flower only lasts one day the flower is said to represent transient happiness in the Language of Flowers.
What flower tales do you have?
To see a World in a Grain of Sand
And a Heaven in a Wild Flower,
Hold Infinity in the palm of your hand
And Eternity in an hour.
Seasonal Celebrations is a time for marking the change of seasons and what is happening in your part of the world during this time. I hope you will join in by creating a post telling us how you celebrate this time of year whether spring or fall or something else. Share your traditions, holidays, gardens and celebrations in pictures, poetry or words starting March 1st.
And it seems so appropriate to collaborate with Beth and her Lessons Learned meme. What lessons have you learned this past season of winter here in the North and spring in the South. Then tell us about your wishes, desires and dreams for this new season.The rules are simple. Just create a post that talks about lessons learned and/or seasonal celebrations. If you are joining in for both memes please leave a comment on both our blog posts. Or if you are choosing to join only one meme, leave a comment on that blog post. Make sure to include a link with your comment.
Beth and I will do a summary post of our respective memes on the equinox (the 20th of March). And we will keep those posts linked on a page on our blog. Your post should be linked in the weekend before the equinox to give us enough time to include your post in our summary. And if you link in a bit late, never fear we will include it on the special blog page (which I still have to create). The badges here can be used in your post. So won’t you join in the celebration!!
Next up on the blog: Spring is getting closer and closer, and Seasonal Celebrations will be here starting with a post on Friday March 1st. Then it is all uphill from there as I put on my garden shoes to kick into high gear.
I will be linking in with Michelle@Rambling Woods for her Nature Notes meme. It is a great way to see what is happening in nature around the world every Wednesday.
I hope you will join me for my posts once a month at Beautiful Wildlife Garden. See my most current post now.
As always, I’ll be joining Tootsie Time’s Fertilizer Friday.
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