White Delights ~ Spiderwort

Tradescantia ohiensis

A Texas native, spiderwort (Tradescantia spp.) honors both John Tradescant the Elder (1570-1638) and his son, also named John. Both served as Keeper of his Master’s Gardens, Vines, and Silkworms at Oatlands Palace, an estate occupied by Queen Henrietta Maria, wife of Charles I of England. One species,  Tradescantia virginiana, recalls John the Younger’s travels to Virginia in the 1630s, and the horticultural specimens he brought back to England.

Some say the plant’s common name comes from its angular leaves and stems, which vaguely resemble spider legs, but the Missouri Botanical Garden notes that when spiderwort stems are cut, “a viscous stem secretion is released which becomes threadlike and silky upon hardening, like a spider’s web.”

Because Tradescant the Elder had no sense of smell, he tended to favor visually interesting trees and flowers; I suspect he would have enjoyed the white spiderworts I discovered among a field of purple and blue in Dickinson, Texas, on March 14. I’ll occasionally find rose-colored spiderwort flowers, but these were the first white that I’d seen.

While this white flower is a natural variant, a cultivar known as T. ohiensis ‘Alba’ exists. It’s a pretty combination of white and lavender; gardeners who enjoy spiderworts, or white flowers, or unusual plants, might want to give it a try.

 

Comments always are welcome.
For a brief, interesting history of the Tradescants, their travels and collections, click here.

The Butterfly that Didn’t Fly

When I spotted this lovely, pinkish spiderwort blooming along a roadside outside Palacios last Sunday, I had to stop for a closer look.

Most spiderworts I’d seen that day had been purple, like this impressive clump of prairie spiderwort (Tradescantia occidentalis). At more than two feet tall, it was larger than anything I’d seen outside a garden, and definitely eye-catching.

While admiring the pink spiderwort, I noticed that the stem held two blooms, not one. As I circled the plant, trying to focus on both flowers, I found myself seeing them them as one creature: a sweet, pink butterfly far more willing to pose than most of the fluttery ones that tease me with their flight.

 

Comments always are welcome.

 

Spiderwort Buds and Bloom

 

 

Despite carrying the name of Ohio, this smooth spiderwort (Tradescantia ohiensis Raf.) is one of the most elegant harbingers of spring in Texas. Found in prairies and meadows, at woodland edges, and along roadsides, it’s flowers are pollinated by long-tongued bees, especially bumblebees. Halictid bees and syrphid flies also will visit, but the syrphids simply feed on stray bits of pollen.

The genus name honors John Tradescant (1570-1638) and his son John Tradescant (1608-1662), botanists and gardeners to Charles I of England.

The author name for the plant classification, ‘Raf.’ is for Constantine Samuel Rafinesque (1783-1840),  who traveled and lived in the United States for many years. He collected specimens, and published over 6,700 binomial names for plants. He applied to be botanist on the Lewis & Clark expedition, but Jefferson chose Lewis to act as botanist, thus saving the expense of another person.

 

Comments always are welcome.