4/30/2011

Spiderworts

Please  click on the photos, you can see the details of the very feathery center, possibly the view bees see when they visit looking for nectar.

We have Spiderworts in bloom this week in the yard and around the edges of the garden. I have several kinds, collected in various locations. This pink one I found in Arkansas several years ago and is Tradescantia ozarkana. It's found growing in rich, rocky areas, including woods and bluff ledges.
Look close into the center. If the stamen hairs turn orange, there's a radiation leak somewhere!
Tradescantias are claimed to be indicators of radiation leaks. I found this quote on the web: "All members of the Spiderwort are used extensively in scientific research to detect radiation fallout or exposure." The name, Spiderwort comes from the feathery, glistening hairs on the sepals and the buds which resemble spider webs, especially when covered with dew. (Wort, is the old English word for plant). Other sources claim the name comes from the leaf arrangement that looks like a squatting spider. Really? I don't see it.
This one is a deeper purple, with a brighter yellow-green leaf color and is a selection of Tradescantia virginiana.
Most spiderworts grow in shady areas around the edges of woods and the flowers bloom from early morning until around noon. Mine are growing under various oak trees in the yard but we had them growing in full sun on our cellar when I was a kid. Sometimes on cloudy days the blossom will last from morning to night, but like a daylily, the flowers only last one day.
Note the cluster of buds, each one ready to open for just one day. This is T. bracteata, native of Missouri.
The Cherokee Indians and probably other Native tribes, used the plant medicinally in preparations for "female" and kidney problems. The sticky, muciliginous sap was rubbed on insect bites and poison ivy.
This is the more common color of spiderwort.
In the afternoon the flowers wilt, turning into a jelly-like fluid but before that, there is a constant line of bees and butterflies going after the nectar. The flower has very little fragrance to the human nose but evidently bee noses sense something special because they line up like kids at a hot dog stand.
 
I'll leave you with just one more photo to consider. Know what this mean looking critter is, resting on a spinach leaf? You'll be surprised if you don't already know the insect. It's the larval stage of the common ladybug! A very desirable insect to have in the garden. They love to eat the aphids that eat young plant leaves.

Happy gardening!

2 comments:

Rhonda said...

These are very pretty!
You threw me for a loop... I had no idea about the radiation leaks... how odd. I wonder who discovered that tidbit of information? Now the ladybug nymph? That one I knew :)

FushigiFox said...

WOW!! great to know about them being used as radiation indicators!! I will see if I can plant some near us since the nuclear radiation plant in Fukushima is still having some trouble. We are quite far from it though. My mother-in^-law would enjoy this bit of information too. Her eldest son is in Fukushima. Thanks for sharing that info!