Smooth Spiderwort

Photo of smooth spiderwort flowers being visited by beelike syrphid flies
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Scientific Name
Tradescantia ohiensis
Commelinaceae (spiderworts)

An herbaceous perennial with a straight or sometimes zigzag stem, lacking hairs or with very few hairs. Flower clusters subtended by 1 or 2 leaves similar to the rest of the leaves. Petals 3; blue, rose, purple, lavender, or rarely white; size of petals varies; flowers triangular, about ¾–1½ inches across. Stamens bearded and fluffy. Blooms May–July. Leaves about 12 inches long; narrow, folded lengthwise; bluish green, clasping stems in a thick node.

Similar species: There are 8 species of spiderworts in the Missouri flora, plus several documented hybrids that display characteristics of more than one species. Smooth spiderwort hybridizes with nearly all of them, and it is the commonest and most widely distributed of Missouri's spiderworts.


Height: to 3 feet.

Where To Find
image of Smooth Spiderwort distribution map


Occurs in glades, prairies, and openings in moist to dry upland forests; along railroads and roadsides; also in old fields and pastures. This spiderwort grows throughout the eastern United States and is commonly cultivated as an ornamental. Ornamental spiderworts, however, are often hybrids between two species, and spiderworts in the field may be hybrids, too.

In addition to their place in flower gardening, spiderworts have proven useful for assessing an area's exposure to radiation, as the stamen hairs mutate and change color once exposed. This sensitivity to radiation and chemical mutagens is a property being explored for numerous applications.

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

Where to See Species

This is a forest area that has an archery and firearms range. This area has unimproved roads that are open to public vehicles. These roads may not be shown on area maps or posted with signs.
Ben Branch Lake Conservation Area is in Osage County, ten miles north of Linn off Missouri Highway 89. The Conservation Department purchased most of this 512-acre area in 1978.
Fiery Fork Conservation Area is in Camden County, 15 miles northwest of Camdenton and seven miles east of Climax Springs, off Highway 7.
This 80-acre native prairie remnant is named after the Osage Indians' traditional name for the sun.
The Conservation Department acquired this prairie in 1987.
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!