Dwarf Spiderwort - Tharp's Spiderwort - Shortstem Spiderwort
Tradescantia tharpii - E.S. Anderson & Woodson
Commelinaceae (Spiderwort) Family

Photo courtesy Brenda Davenport, Brewton, Alabama

Plant is a compact, clump-forming perennial that is normally found in rocky prairies, open woodlands, glades, slopes and along railroad tracks in unglaciated areas. This is a small plant that grows to only 8-12” tall. The genus name honors John Tradescant (1570-1638) and his son John Tradescant (1608-1662), botanists and successive gardeners to Charles I of England. Specific epithet honors Benjamin Carroll Tharp (1885-1964), botanist and professor at the University of Texas.

The leaves are strap-like, green, and 6-12” long by 1” wide reminiscent of dayflowers. Emerges in spring, but depending on time planted, the plant will flourish from spring to autumn.

The three-petaled flowers are about 1” across, accented by contrasting yellow stamens. The flowers are borne in terminal clusters (umbel-like cymes) atop short stiff stems. The petal color is typically rose to purple, but may less frequently be light pink, lavender or blue. Multiple flower buds form in each cluster, but individual flowers open up only a few at a time, each for only one day. Flowers occur from May to August.

Fruit is a capsule.

When the stems of spiderworts are cut, a viscous stem secretion is released which becomes thread-like and silky upon hardening (like a spider’s web), hence an attribute to the common name.

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