prairie spiderwort

(Tradescantia occidentalis var. occidentalis)

Conservation Status
prairie spiderwort
Photo by Kirk Neslon
  IUCN Red List

not listed

     
  NatureServe

N5? - Secure

SNR - Unranked

     
  Minnesota

not listed

     
           
Wetland Indicator Status
     
  Great Plains

UPL - Obligate upland

     
  Midwest

UPL - Obligate upland

     
  Northcentral & Northeast

UPL - Obligate upland

     
           
 
Description
 
 

Prairie spiderwort is a 16 to 40 tall, erect, perennial forb that rises on 1 to many stems from thick, fleshy, fibrous roots.

The stems are erect or ascending, often branched, usually hairless, green, and covered with a whitish, waxy or powdery film (glaucous). There are 2 to 6 nodes on the stem and up to 10 between nodes.

The leaves are alternate, linear, 3½ to 12 long, and 1 16 to ½ wide but usually less than wide. They are hairless, bright green, glaucous, and rolled inward, not keeled. The upper leaves are as narrow or narrower than the part of the leaf that surrounds the stem when it is opened and flattened. The base of the leaf sheaths the stem. The tip tapers to a point with concave sides along the tip. The margins are untoothed and rolled inward toward the upper side.

The inflorescence is a tight, umbrella-like cluster of up to 25 flowers arising from the same point. They appear at the end of the stem, at the ends of branches, and often on long stalks rising from the leaf axils. A pair of bracts below the inflorescence are similar to the leaves and about the same size, 2 to 8 long.

The flowers are 1 to 1½ wide. They are on to 1 long stalks which droop when in bud, becoming erect when the flower opens. The flower stalks and sepals are sparsely hairy with minute, glandular hairs, the hairs no more than 1 64 (0.5 mm) long. The sepals may have a tuft of hairs at the tip. The 3 petals are bright blue to rose or magenta and broadly egg-shaped. There are 6 stamens with bright yellow anthers. The petals last only one day, opening in the morning then turning to jelly in the mid-day heat. The central flowers bloom first. There is no floral scent.

The fruit is a papery, nearly round to oblong capsule ¼ or less in diameter with 2 to 6 seeds.

 
     
 

Height

 
 

8 to 24

 
     
 

Flower Color

 
 

Bright blue to rose or magenta

 
     
 

Similar Species

 
 

Bracted spiderwort (Tradescantia bracteata) stems are usually unbranched and bright green. The leaves are bright green and keeled, not rolled inward. Neither the stems nor the leaves are glaucous. The bracts are 2 to 12 long, often longer and wider than the leaves. The sepals and flower stalks are densely hairy with both long and short hairs.

Ohio spiderwort (Tradescantia ohiensis) is a taller plant, 16 to 40 tall at maturity. The stems are glaucous. The leaves are glaucous and flat, not rolled inward. The bracts are 2 to 8 long and no wider than the leaves. The sepals and flower stalks are usually hairless.

 
     
 
Habitat
 
 

Dry or moderate moisture. Prairies, meadows, roadsides. Full sun.

 
     
 
Biology
 
 

Flowering

 
 

June to July

 
     
 
Use
 
 

 

 
     
 
Distribution
 
 

Distribution Map

 

Sources

2, 3, 4, 5, 7, 24, 28.

 
  1/17/2012      
         
 

Nativity

 
 

Native

 
         
 

Occurrence

 
 

 

 
         
 
Taxonomy
 
  Kingdom Plantae (green algae and land plants)  
  Subkingdom Viridiplantae (green plants)  
  Infrakingdom Streptophyta (land plants and green algae)  
  Superdivision Embryophyta (land plants)  
  Division Tracheophyta (vascular plants)  
  Subdivision Spermatophytina (seed plants)  
  Class Liliopsida (monocots)  
  Subclass Commelinidae  
 

Order

Commelinales (spiderworts and allies)  
 

Family

Commelinaceae (spiderwort)  
  Subfamily Commelinoideae  
  Tribe Tradescantieae  
  Subtribe Tradescantiinae  
 

Genus

Tradescantia (spiderwort)  
  Species Tradescantia occidentalis (western spiderwort)  
       
 

Synonyms

 
 

Tradescantia occidentalis var. melanthera

Tradescantia occidentalis var. typica

 
       
 

Common Names

 
 

prairie spiderwort

western spiderwort

 
       

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Glossary

Axil

The upper angle where the leaf stalk meets the stem.

 

Bract

Modified leaf at the base of a flower stalk, flower cluster, or inflorescence.

 

Glandular hairs

Hairs spread over aerial vegetation that secrete essential oils. The oils act to protect against herbivores and pathogens or, when on a flower part, attract pollinators. The hairs have a sticky or oily feel.

 

Glaucous

Pale green or bluish gray due to a whitish, powdery or waxy film, as on a plum or a grape.

 

Keeled

Folded, as in a grass blade, or with a raised ridge, as in a grass sheath; like the keel of a boat.

 

Linear

Long, straight, and narrow, with more or less parallel sides, like a blade of grass.

 

Node

The small swelling of the stem from which one or more leaves, branches, or buds originate.

 

Sepal

An outer floral leaf, usually green but sometimes colored, at the base of a flower.

 

Sheath

The lower part of the leaf that surrounds the stem.

       
Visitor Photos
   

Share your photo of this plant.

This button not working for you?
Simply email us at info@MinnesotaSeasons.com.
Attach one or more photos and, if you like, a caption.

       
Kirk Neslon
       

Prairie spiderwort at Lebanon Hills Regional Park. Prolific along the road leading in to the Visitors Center.

  prairie spiderwort    
       

Prairie spiderwort at Crosby Farm Regional Park

  prairie spiderwort    
       

Flower

  prairie spiderwort    
       

Plant and flower

  prairie spiderwort    
       
Wayne Rasmussen
       
  prairie spiderwort    
       
MinnesotaSeasons.com Photos
   

Plant

  prairie spiderwort   prairie spiderwort
       
  prairie spiderwort    
       

Inflorescence

  prairie spiderwort    
       

Flower

  prairie spiderwort   prairie spiderwort
       
  prairie spiderwort    
       

Leaves

  prairie spiderwort    
       

Sepals

  prairie spiderwort   prairie spiderwort
       

Buds

  prairie spiderwort    
       

 

Camera

     
 
Slideshows
 
 
     
     
     

 

slideshow

       
Visitor Videos
       

Share your video of this plant.

This button not working for you?
Simply email us at info@MinnesotaSeasons.com.
Attach one or more videos or YouTube links and, if you like, a caption.

       
       
Other Videos
 
  Minnesota Native Plant - Western Spiderwort (Tradescantia Occidentalis var. Occidentalis)
MNNativePlants
 
   
 
About

Published on Jun 24, 2013

This video shows the Western Spiderwort (Tradescantia Occidentalis var. Occidentalis). A beautiful Minnesota native plant that looks great in the morning throughout June and July.

   
       
  Honeybees on Spiderwort
MrILoveTheAnts
 
   
 
About

Published on Jun 2, 2014

The Western Spiderwort, which is also native to the east go figure started flowering and honeybees started collecting the pollen. The species name is Tradescantia occidentalis.

   
       
  Spiderwort Time-lapse
Reva McKinney
 
   
 
About

Published on Jun 25, 2013

Testing out the time-lapse feature on my spiderwort plant in my garden. The blooms open and close in the mornin' and evenin'. :)

All rights to the music are reserved by the artist.

   
       

 

Camcorder

         
Visitor Sightings
   

Report a sighting of this plant.

This button not working for you?
Simply email us at info@MinnesotaSeasons.com.
Be sure to include a location.

Judy Luhman
6/9/2020

Location: Detroit Lakes, MN

volunteer growing in our flowerbed


Kirk Nelson
6/25/2017

Location: Lebanon Hills Regional Park

Prolific along the road leading in to the Visitors Center

prairie spiderwort


Kirk Nelson
6/8/2017

Location: Crosby Farm Regional Park

prairie spiderwort


Wayne Rasmussen
6/9/2016

Location: Joy Park & Preserve in Maplewood, MN

prairie spiderwort


Kirk Nelson
5/29/2016

Location: Crosby Farm Regional Park, St.Paul, Ramsey County

prairie spiderwort


     
     
 
MinnesotaSeasons.com Sightings
         
         

 

 

Binoculars


Last Updated:

About Us | Privacy Policy | Contact Us | © 2022 MinnesotaSeasons.com. All rights reserved.