Written by Matthew Patterson, Visitor Services Associate
Tradescantia, also known as the “Spiderworts”, is a genus of perennials native to the New World from southern Canada south to northern Argentina. They are weakly upright to scrambling plants, growing to 30–60 cm tall, and are commonly found individually or in clumps in wooded areas and fields. The leaves are long, thin and bladelike, from 3–45 cm long. The flowers can be white, pink, or purple, but are most commonly bright blue, with three petals and six yellow anthers.
Tradescantia derives its name from John Tradescant the Elder, the 15th century English naturalist, gardener, collector and traveler who is credited with discovering it.
The cells of the stamen hairs of some Tradescantia are colored blue, but when exposed to sources of radiation such as gamma rays, the cells mutate and change color to pink. They are one of the few tissues known to serve as an effective biological indicator for ambient radiation levels.
As a spiderwort that is a native wild flower in Florida they make a fitting addition to the gardens here at The Cummer Museum.