Dwarf Spiderwort (Wild Crocus)

Photo of dwarf spiderwort flower clusters
Scientific Name
Tradescantia longipes
Commelinaceae (spiderworts)

A low-growing, clump-forming perennial. Flowers bright magenta, purple, or purplish blue, in clusters, with the three petals arranged in a triangular pattern; stamens 6, bearded and fluffy. Blooms April–May. Leaves basal, irregularly hairy, grasslike, wide, with a crease along the center vein.

Similar species: There are 8 species of spiderwort in the Missouri flora, plus several documented hybrids that display characteristics of more than one species. This species has been known to hybridize with smooth spiderwort (T. ohioensis). Another species, Virginia spiderwort (T. virginiana), occurs in many of the same areas as dwarf spiderwort. It is only sparsly hairy (if at all) and grows to 16 inches high. It, too, can hybridize with smooth spiderwort.


Height: 6–8 inches.

Where To Find
image of Dwarf Spiderwort Wild Crocus distribution map

Scattered, restricted to the eastern half of the Ozark and Ozark Border Divisions. Cultivated statewide.

Occurs in rocky, mesic upland to dry upland forests in ravines and on ridges; less commonly along the edges of glades and old fields; usually on acidic substrates.

This is an interesting native perennial with showy flowers that can be grown in rock gardens or in other types of gardens. The species name "longipes" ("long-footed") doesn't immediately make sense with such a low-growing species, but apparently it refers to the relatively long leaves.

Bumblebees and other insects pollinate this plant, and a number of herbivorous mammals, including deer, rabbit, and livestock, eat the foliage. Each flower is open for just one day. Spiderworts are closely related to the common houseplant called "Wandering Jew."

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Similar Species
About Wildflowers, Grasses and Other Nonwoody Plants in Missouri
A very simple way of thinking about the green world is to divide the vascular plants into two groups: woody and nonwoody (or herbaceous). But this is an artificial division; many plant families include some species that are woody and some that are not. The diversity of nonwoody vascular plants is staggering! Think of all the ferns, grasses, sedges, lilies, peas, sunflowers, nightshades, milkweeds, mustards, mints, and mallows — weeds and wildflowers — and many more!