Lavender spiders

This year the wildflowers have been spectacular already – and it is just barely past Easter.

Roadsides are covered with purple, red, and white clover. if you miss a spot in your yard while mowing, you are liable to see tiny veronica, bright oxalis, and the everpresent crowpoison. Fallow fields are breeding grounds for purple and white violets. Fencelines and the edges of woods crawl with jessamine, blackberry, honeysuckle, and wisteria.

I think one of the most remarkable of these wildflowers is spiderwort (tradescantia). Spiderwort is a much lovelier plant than its name might suggest.

Tradescantia is an upright perennial that grows in clumps 1-2 feet tall. The two most common forms here in the U.S., Ohio Spiderwort and Virginia Spiderwort, have indigo to violet blooms of 3-4 petals and prominent yellow anthers. The plant has been domesticated in places and bred to other colors ranging from mauve to white.

The stems sport long, dark green lanceolate leaves that hang down all around, giving the plant an appearance sort of like a giant green spider – but that might not be where it gets its name. Some naturalists have suggested that the name derives from the sticky sap. When the stems are broken, the sap runs clear, and when dried, the sap can be drawn into white filaments suggestive of spider silk.

The most remarkable patch of spiderwort that I’ve seen is currently in bloom south of Magnolia beside Highway-51. This amazing lavender clump begins around the city limits sign and continues unabated for about a mile in the ditch on the west side of the road.

If the State hasn’t mowed it yet, and you are local to this area, you ought to go check it out – but do it in the morning because in the afternoon the blossoms close up and the plants are less majestic!

Categories: Nature