Edge of the Prairiethe sand prairies and savannas of the Chicago region

    Tradescantia ohiensis
    Ohio spiderwort

This is a conspicuous roadside prairie wildflower with many common names - the officially recognized English language name is "bluejacket", a name your author has never heard anyone use. In the American Midwest it's usually called spiderwort, but the backwoods common name is snotweed; hardly in keeping with its beautiful blue flowers.

Tradescantia ohiensis

Spiderwort is a common perennial prairie forb, with typical three-part monocot flowers. Spiderworts often line roadsides on June mornings in northwest Indiana's sand country. The individual flowers bloom for just a single day and generally wilt in the midday sun. There are many flowers in a flower head and their display lasts for at least two weeks.

Spiderworts are excellent for the sand garden, with attractive glaucous foliage and a long flowering season. Spiderworts grow best in sand, but any well drained soil will work. The plants seem to flower well when they get partial shade part of the day. Because their flowers are most attractive early in the morning, consider planting them where they'll get some morning sun, and where you can enjoy them while you're having your morning coffee.

Tradescantian ohiensis albaMany color variations exist, including indigo, royal blue, violet and pink-rose as well as the white flowers shown here [click image for larger view]. Variegated forms are sometimes observed, and "poppy red" individuals have been reported. However, regardless of petal color, the characteristic stamen hairs are blue. The variation in petal color are said to persist in cultivation. With their fibrous root system, they are easy to transplant and are carefree.

Tradescantia has been used by herbalists for kidney ailments, women's problems and insanity. But Tradescantia plants have an amazing application that may remind older readers of the 1960's play The Effect of Gamma Radiation on Man-In-The-Moon Marigolds. The stamen hairs of Tradescantia plants are known to be especially sensitive to radiation, and have therefore found applications in nuclear research, including zero-gravity experiments. We've provided some links at the bottom of this page for those interested in finding out more about spiderworts in space. Some authorities state that the blue stamen hairs (visible in the photograph above) turn pink in the presence of even low levels of radiation - gardeners near nuclear power plants might want to try out nature's Geiger counter.

    View Large Images

Close-Up View of a spiderwort flowerhead. [78k]

Colony of Spiderworts along an abandoned railroad near the entrance to Chesapeake Run Golf Course. This area was intentionally burned in about two months earlier. [179k]

Tradescantia ohiensis alba is the variety with white petals. [84k]

In a garden setting against an old fence. Care consists of not mowing them down. [145k]

Another large image with morning dew. [150k]

All photographs by Marty Lucas and © Becknell and Lucas Media, Ltd. Students may freely use these images in school reports not for publication without requesting permission. Others, please request permission by writing e-mail to Marty Lucas. Requests for uses aiding in the understanding and appreciation of prairies and native plants are routinely granted. Higher resolution photographs (sans copyright notice) suitable for printing are available for purchase.


Tradescantia ohiensis on the Wisconsin Plant of the Week website.

Tradescantia ohiensis at the Wisconsin State Herbarium.

Tradescantia ohiensis on n2thewild.com.

Tradescantia ohiensis on field guide to the prairie.

The white variety is available at prairie nursery.

Determination of Influence of Zero Gravity on Mutation Process Using Controlled Gamma Ray Exposure a NASA project using Tradescantia plants.

Spiderwort detects radiation that conventional instruments don't. on GDR.org.



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