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Published In: Species Plantarum 1: 288. 1753. (1 May 1753) (Sp. Pl.) Name publication detailView in BotanicusView in Biodiversity Heritage Library

Project Name Data (Last Modified On 8/26/2009)
Acceptance : Accepted

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2. Tradescantia L. (spiderwort)

(Anderson and Woodson, 1935)

Plants perennial, the roots fibrous or more commonly thickened and somewhat fleshy to tuberlike. Stems usually unbranched. Leaf blades linear to lanceolate, flat above the base. Inflorescences 1 to several, terminal and sometimes axillary, the flower clusters subtended by 1 or 2 bracts indistinguishable from the foliage leaves. Flowers actinomorphic. Sepals 3, narrowly ovate to elliptic. Petals 3, equal and lacking stalklike, narrowed bases, broadly obovate to elliptic. Stamens 6, the filaments with dense, spreading hairs. Staminodes absent. Fruits 4B8 mm long, ovoid, 3-locular. Seeds 3B6 per capsule, 2B3 mm long, oblong to ovoid and somewhat flattened with a depression on 1 side, the surfaces undulate to bluntly several-ribbed. 50B60 species, North America to South America.

Several species of Tradescantia are cultivated as ornamentals and are used industrially to test for the presence of radiation and some chemical mutagens (Tucker, 1989). The most commonly used plants, however, have resulted from various past interspecific hybridizations by plant breeders involving T. ohiensis, T. subaspera, and T. virginiana. These are often referred to as ATradescantia -andersoniana,@ a name that has not been typified and therefore has not been published validly. Naturally occurring hybrids also may be found on occasion in Missouri, thus the key below will not work well for every plant encountered in the field.


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1 Blades of at least the upper leaves and bracts broader than the sheaths (the lower leaf blades sometimes not broader than the sheaths) (2)
+ Blades of the leaves and bracts all as broad as or narrower than the sheaths (4)
2 (1) Stems usually strongly zigzag; flower stalks 10B17 mm long 6 Tradescantia subaspera Ker Gawl. var. subaspera
+ Stems straight or only slightly zigzag; flower stalks 20B32 mm long (3)
3 (2) Leaf blades not glaucous, deep green; sepals 10B14 mm long, more or less inflated, hairy but lacking any gland-tipped hairs 2 Tradescantia ernestiana
+ Leaf blades somewhat glaucous, light green to grayish green; sepals 8B10 mm long, not inflated, with at least some of the hairs minutely gland-tipped (visible under magnification) 5 Tradescantia ozarkana
4 (1) Sepals glabrous or hairy only with nonglandular hairs (5)
+ Sepals hairy with at least some of the hairs minutely gland-tipped (visible under magnification) (7)
5 (4) Sepals and flower stalks glabrous or the sepals sparsely hairy only at the tips 4 Tradescantia ohiensis
+ Sepals and flower stalks hairy throughout (6)
6 (5) Stems and leaves densely long-hairy; sepals usually with purple margins or tips, the margins of the leaf blades often also tinged with pinkish purple to purple 7 Tradescantia tharpii
+ Stems and leaves sparsely hairy or glabrous; sepals and leaves uniformly green 8 Tradescantia virginiana
7 (4) Stems (5B)20B45 cm long; leaves bright yellowish green, glabrous or nearly so; flower stalks 10B30(B32) mm long 1 Tradescantia bracteata
+ Stems 2B10 cm long, leaves deep green, hairy, especially toward the base; flower stalks 30B60 mm long 3 Tradescantia longipes
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