November 13, 2019

Triple Play

Tradescantia virginiana - Virginia spiderwort

Janine Pineo Photo | Tradescantia virginiana – Virginia spiderwort

One supposes that after sailing the high seas on a trip with the intended destination to fight Barbary pirates, one might want to settle down to a quieter existence if one survived. John Tradescant the elder, who did just that in 1620, was quite the gardener and traveler, amassing a collection of plants but also curiosities that formed the first museum open to the public in England, the Musaeum Tradescantianum. Plus, he had a whole genus named to honor him, Tradescantia or spiderwort. This monocot (single-leaved cotyledon) does things in threes, such as three petals and six anthers. Pictured is Tradescantia virginia, a native to eastern North America, including Maine. It prefers full to partial shade and is hardy to Zone 4. The flowers only open for a day and are borne above iris-like arching leaves. The plant can grow up to 3 feet in height when happy and also will seed itself if conditions are ideal. As for its common name, is might come from two origins. Perhaps it came from the sap, which resembles web-like filaments when a stem is broken. Or the way the leaves are arranged may look like a crouching spider. For a possible third reason, we’d like to suggest a simple one, just to make things even: maybe spiders find it an attractive home. You never know.