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August – Spiderwort

August – Spiderwort

Latin name:  Tradescantia ohiensis – Commelinaceae

Common name: Spiderwort, bluejacket, Ohio spiderwort, day flower

Usage:  Tradescantia ohiensis, or spiderwort, is a Florida native edible and medicinal plant that is tolerant of the intense summer heat. You will find spiderwort blossoming year round in Florida, but the height of its bloom is in the spring. Energetically, spiderwort is a cooling, soothing plant. The fresh leaves and stems can be made into a poultice and used topically  to relieve inflamed skin conditions, similar to Aloe vera. Tradescantia species are used by First Nations people throughout North America. T. virginiana, a species found farther north, is utilized by Cherokee people for female regenerative system issues, kidney complaints, as a laxative, for stomach problems, cancers, insect bites and skin problems (Garrett). The leaves, stems and flowers of spiderwort are all edible. The leaves and flowers can be added to salads. Stems and leaves can be steamed or sauteed like asparagus. 

Growth/Habitat: Tradescantia ohiensis, native to Eastern & Central North America,  is a perennial of the Commelinaceae or day flower family. This plant grows in clumps and can reach about two feet in height. You will recognize spiderwort for its striking blue to violet flowers – 3 petals with bright yellow stamens. The flowers are born in clusters, but only a few flowers bloom at a time and remain open for a day, closing up with the heat of the sun. The blue filament hairs on the stamen even turn pink when exposed to low levels of radiation! Amazing.

 You will find spiderwort blossoming year round in Florida, but the height of its bloom is in the spring. Leaves are entire, long and strap like with parallel venation and a crease lengthwise down the center, coming to a sharp point, arranged alternately down a round stem. Spiderwort thrives in full sun to partial shade with moist, well drained soil  but will tolerate drying out. Plants can be propagated by seed, but are more readily propagated by division or cutting. 

Recipes: Saute stems and leaves with olive oil, garlic, salt and pepper.

Sources: 

Deane, Green. “SPIDERWORT: POCAHONTAS AND GAMMA RAYS.” Eat The Weeds and Other Things, Too, www.eattheweeds.com/?s=spiderwort.
Garrett, J. T. The Cherokee Herbal: Native Plant Medicine from the Four Directions. Bear & Co., 2003.

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