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    Saturday, August 02, 2008

    Spiderwort After The Rain

    One of our most distinctive native Missouri wildflowers, with it's beautiful purple-blue petals, bright golden stamens, and long slender leaves, Spiderwort was the first wild plant I ever learned to identify on sight.

    Spiderwort blooms in late spring and early summer, producing vivid blooms throughout the season. Each plant can produce over 20 short-lived flowers per stem. While each individual flower only blooms for a single day, the blossoms and buds are so heavy and numerous that they often weigh down the usually knee-high plant, causing some stalks to lean sideways instead of standing upright.

    The scientific name of Spiderwort is Tradescantia sp., and another common name for it is Cow Slobber, likely both common names came about due to the highly-stretchy nature of the sap, reminiscent of both spider silk and bovine drool. It is related in class to grasses, as well as the Iris, Lilly, and Orchid families.

    One of our many wild edibles, the leaves, and stalks may be eaten raw as a salad green, steamed as a vegetable, or added to stews. The flowers make an unusual garnish to salads and summer drinks, and if candied, look delightful as cake decorations.

    Popular in English gardens, Spiderwort is easily propagated from seeds and cuttings, and is one of the wildflowers that has made it into the nursery business. If you can't find it at your local nursery, it is sometimes available for purchase at the Department of Conservation's spring seed and plant sale, and makes a vibrant addition to any native flower garden.

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