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Ohio spiderwort is incredibly versatile and beautiful. Its cool, calming colors and velvety texture present a multitude of possibilities for complementing or contrasting with other plants. Purplish flowers with glowing, bright yellow anthers bloom May through July in clusters amidst a graceful mass of blue-green, grass-like leaves. The clump-forming herbaceous perennial is part of the Daylily family, as evidenced by the lifespan of the three-petaled flowers that bloom for a day before closing in the hot afternoon sun.  Gardeners quickly learn to enjoy their spiderworts in the mornings and on cool, cloudy days. The plant does best in partial sunlight, but it will adapt to shadier areas or all-day sun with enough moisture. During hot summer months, it benefits from additional water. The hardy wildflower flourishes in a wide range of soil types, including clay and sandy. When the foliage is looking a bit forlorn after the blooming season, shearing it back by one-third will neaten and invigorate the plant and, possibly, promote a few late-season blooms. Pruning also prevents rampant self-seeding, and dividing the ever-expanding clump of your Tradescantia is an easy way to spread the plant to other areas of the landscape.

 

Tradescantia ohiensis is one of several native species of spiderwort in Ohio. The common name may come from the mucilaginous material in the leaves that strings into fine threads like a spider’s web. The jointed leaves also resemble the legs of a spider. 

 

Native habitats include roadside ditches, medium to dry prairies and meadows, and woodland margins. Use this plant anywhere: borders, mass plantings, micro prairies, drought-tolerant or rain gardens, edible and native gardens, woodland edges, and more. It pairs well with late-blooming plants that can distract from Ohio spiderwort's fading foliage. The thick stems and blooms are ideal for cut-flower arrangements.

 

Plant Characteristics:

Grows 2-3' tall and 1.5-2.5'  wide.

 

Prefers part sun but adapts to shadier areas (producing fewer flowers) and full sun with adequate moisture.

 

Prefers moist to slightly dry, sandy soils but adapts readily to clay, loam, or shallow rocky. Tolerant of occasionally dry or wet conditions. 

 

Flowers have 3 petals; 6 yellow anthers; and fine, violet hairs near the base. The 1-3" blooms appear late spring to mid-summer for about 1-1/2 months. The green fruit capsules display from May to August and mature 2-3 weeks after flowering. Each capsule releases 3-6 brown, oval to oblong seeds.

 

The smooth, waxy, linear-shaped leaves are up to 15" long and 1-3" wide with a lengthwise fold that forms a groove in the leaf. The base of the leaf wraps around the round, branched stem, which is green or tinged with purple. 

 

The thick root system is fleshy and fibrous, sending off occasional offshoots nearby.

 

Wildlife Value:

Host plant for 3 species of Lepidoptera larvae: : golden looper, soybean looper, and waterlily leafcutter moth. Bumblebees collecting pollen are reported to be Ohio spiderwort’s most important pollinators, it’s also visited by small solitary bees and syrphid flies (including some common non-native varieties). Deer and small mammals may be tempted to browse young and tender foliage.

 

Medicinal, Edible, and Other Uses:

Native Americans used the plant to treat cancer, stomachaches, constipation, kidney problems, and female issues.

 

Herbalists use the plant to help heal wounds and hemorrhoids. They also use it as an antidiarrheal, analgesic, astringent, emetic, expectorant, and sedative.

 

The flowers are used to garnish salads, and the bitter seeds are roasted. The young leaves are tossed into salad greens or made into a tea.

 

The Lakota made a blue paint from the flowers to decorate their clothing (another common name is Indian paint).

 

 

Resources:

North Carolina Extension: https://tinyurl.com/63k2vdtd 

Illinois Wildflowers: https://www.illinoiswildflowers.info/prairie/plantx/oh_spiderwortx.htm 

Land Conservancy McHenry County: https://tinyurl.com/63k2vdtd 

A Wild Garden: https://awildgarden.com/2020/06/09/ohio-spiderwort-late-spring-garden/ 

Edible Wild Food: https://www.ediblewildfood.com/spiderwort.aspx

Gardens Eye View: https://gardenseyeview.com/2013/02/25/wildflower-tale-spiderwort/#:~:text=Benefits%20to%20Wildlife,bees%2C%20Syrphid%20flies%20and%20butterflies

Spiderwort, Ohio, Tradescantia ohiensis

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