‘Worts and all!

In February we visited the University of Florida/St Lucie Teaching Gardens for a class on native plants. During our nature walk, the instructor suggested we take any cuttings or bulbs we might like! 😯 Hello!!!!!!  Kids in a candy store time!!!  Needless to say, there was a stampede to the nippers and spades!

I was immediately drawn to Tradescantia Ohiensis, a scrambling clump of bright blue, wavy flowers I’d never seen before. Although I later learned you can root T. Ohiensis (aka Spiderwort) from stem cuttings, that day I divided “young” looking sections from around the clump’s perimeter into 4 tuberous groupings.  When I got home, I immediately planted them in the lily area:

Spiderwort, May 5, 2012

Spiderwort, May 5, 2012

2.5 months later, they’ve settled nicely into their new home, and even sprouted flowers! 🙂

Spiderwort Flower

Each Spiderwort flower opens one day only!

In retrospect, I’m surprised I’d never seen spiderwort.  With a range from Ontario through the eastern part of the States, into Mexico and South America, you’d think I’d have run across it someplace between here and Massachusetts!   Strange!

There’s a lot to like about a plant with so many ethnobotanical uses! The Cherokees and other Aboriginals mashed the roots into a paste they used to treat skin conditions from rashes and bites to cancer; the stems were boiled in water which they drank for the stomach distress of agita or constipation.

Should you find yourself lost in the woods (or merely hiking and wishing for a snack ;)) be advised the flowers, young leaves and stems are edible. If you’re into foraging, look for the tiny grayish-green ovary inside the flowers. You’ll be able to see it when they’re still open in the early morning (or all day if it’s cloudy) It too, is safe to eat….and crunchy!.

Open Spiderwort Flowers

T.Ohiensis has many close relatives, and one of these, T. Virginiana is found (ubiquitously) in all the same regions. You  need a magnifying glass to tell them apart, and I’m not using the phrase quippishly!   Should you like to know for certain what’s growing in your yard, take a field glass to the sepals. If they have tiny hairs, you have Virginia Spiderwort.  The hairless/smooth variety belong to Ohio. 🙂

One last, VERY interesting fact about the Tradescantia family of plants concerns their sensitivity to nuclear radiation and ability to serve as an effective bioassay for ambient radiation levels. The science for this is so far beyond my ken, I feel more comfortable providing a link than risking an incorrect explanation!  If you would like to read more click here!

Until next time…….