Tradescantia virginiana, the Virginia spiderwort, is the type species of Tradescantia (spiderwort) in the family Commelinaceae, native to the eastern United States. Spiderwort is commonly grown in gardens and many garden spiderworts seem to be hybrids of T. virginiana and other Tradescantia species (e.g. T. ohiensis).
Tradescantia virginiana is a herbaceous plant with alternate, simple leaves, on tubular stems. The flowers are blue, purple, or white, borne in summer. It is is a perennial forb/herb. It likes most moist soils but can adapt to drier garden soils. Plants may be propagated from seed but they are more easily started from cuttings/divisions, in which latter case they will preserve the parent plant's characteristics.
Tradescantia virginiana is found in eastern North America, west to Missouri, south to northern South Carolina and Alabama, and north to Ontario, Vermont, and Michigan. Much of the northern range, however, may represent garden escapes rather than indigenous wild populations. It is an attractive garden plant and many showy hybrids bear striking, large blue flowers, such as this one illustrated, T. virginiana 'Zwanenburg Blue'.
Look closely at a bloom and you'll notice tiny hairs covering the stamens. Under normal circumstances, they're the same blue colour as the flower. However, as Steve Bender and Felder Rushing revealed in their classic, best-selling book, "Passalong Plants", in the presence of radiation the hairs turn pink. Thus, spiderwort is an essential part of any garden near nuclear plants! Your very own natural Geiger counter in your garden...
Spiderwort had many uses in First Nation’s culture as food and medicine. The seeds are edible when roasted and are ground into a powder (although they are somewhat bitter to taste). Leaves can be made into a tea or tossed into salads, soups, etc. The root can be collected all year round. The flowers can be tossed on top of a salad and eaten. (Dried, powdered flowers were once used as a snuff for nosebleeds).
Externally, this plant can be used as a poultice to help heal wounds and haemorrhoids. Internally the leaves and roots are a valuable alternative medicine used by medical herbalists for their patients as an antidiarrhoeal, analgesic, anthelminthic, antiperiodic, astringent, diaphoretic, emetic, emmenagogue, expectorant, sedative, tonic, vermifuge, and vulnerary. Also, drinking spiderwort tea is supposed to be a good for increasing breast milk (galactagogue).
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