bracted spiderwort

(Tradescantia bracteata)

Conservation Status
bracted spiderwort
  IUCN Red List

not listed


N5? - Secure

SNR - Unranked


not listed

Wetland Indicator Status
  Great Plains

FACU - Facultative upland


FACU - Facultative upland

  Northcentral & Northeast

FACU - Facultative upland


Bracted spiderwort is a 8 to 16 tall, erect, perennial forb that rises on 1 to many stems from thick, fleshy, fibrous roots.

The stems are erect or ascending, usually unbranched, bright green, and usually hairless or with fine, short hairs near the top. There are 2 to 4 nodes on the stem and up to 8 between nodes. The stems and leaves are not glaucous.

The leaves are alternate, linear, 3 to 12 long, and to wide. They are bright green, stiff, folded lengthwise forming a groove (keeled), and hairless or sometimes hairy with minute, fine hairs. The upper leaves are as narrow or narrower than the part of the leaf that surrounds the stem when it is opened and flattened. The base of the leaf sheaths the stem. The tip tapers to a point with concave sides along the tip. The margins are untoothed.

The inflorescence is a tight, umbrella-like cluster of 5 to 15 flowers arising from the same point. They appear at the end of the stem and sometimes also on long stalks rising from the leaf axils. A pair of bracts below the inflorescence are similar to the leaves but often longer and wider, 2 to 12 long. The bracts are folded lengthwise and curve downward.

The flowers are 1 to 1½ wide. They are on to 1 long, densely hairy stalks which droop when in bud, becoming erect when the flower opens. The sepals are densely covered with long hairs. The 3 petals are usually bright rose, sometimes blue, and egg-shaped. There are 6 stamens with bright yellow anthers. The petals last only one day, opening in the morning then turning to jelly in the mid-day heat. The central flowers bloom first. There is no floral scent. The hairiness on the sepals and flower stalks are a mix of long and short, glandular and non-glandular hairs.

The fruit is a papery, nearly round capsule ¼ or less in diameter with 2 to 6 seeds.




8 to 16


Flower Color


Bright rose or blue


Similar Species


Ohio spiderwort (Tradescantia ohiensis) is a much taller plant, 16 to 24 tall at maturity. The stems are often branched, bluish-green, and glaucous. The leaves are grayish-green or bluish-green, glaucous, and flat, not keeled. The bracts are 1 to 8 long and no wider than the leaves. The sepals and flower stalks are usually hairless.

Prairie spiderwort (Tradescantia occidentalis var. occidentalis) is a slightly taller plant, 8 to 24 tall at maturity. The stems are glaucous and often branched. The leaves are glaucous and are rolled inward toward the upper side, not keeled. The bracts are 2 to 8 long and no wider than the leaves. The sepals and flower stalks are sparsely hairy with minute, glandular hairs.


Moist to dry. Prairies, roadsides. Full sun.




April to July


Pests and Diseases






Distribution Map



2, 3, 4, 5, 7, 24, 28, 29, 30.









  Kingdom Plantae (green algae and land plants)  
  Subkingdom Viridiplantae (green plants)  
  Infrakingdom Streptophyta (land plants and green algae)  
  Superdivision Embryophyta (land plants)  
  Division Tracheophyta (vascular plants)  
  Subdivision Spermatophytina (seed plants)  
  Class Liliopsida (monocots)  
  Subclass Commelinidae  


Commelinales (spiderworts and allies)  


Commelinaceae (spiderworts)  
  Subfamily Commelinoideae  
  Tribe Tradescantieae  
  Subtribe Tradescantiinae  


Tradescantia (spiderworts)  







Common Names




bracted spiderwort

common spiderwort

longbract spiderwort

long-bracted spiderwort

small spiderwort

smooth spiderwort

spider lily

sticky spiderwort













The upper angle where the leaf stalk meets the stem.



Modified leaf at the base of a flower stalk, flower cluster, or inflorescence.


Glandular hairs

Hairs spread over aerial vegetation that secrete essential oils. The oils act to protect against herbivores and pathogens or, when on a flower part, attract pollinators. The hairs have a sticky or oily feel.



Pale green or bluish gray due to a whitish, powdery or waxy film, as on a plum or a grape.



Folded, as in a grass blade, or with a raised ridge, as in a grass sheath; like the keel of a boat.



Long, straight, and narrow, with more or less parallel sides, like a blade of grass.



The small swelling of the stem from which one or more leaves, branches, or buds originate.



An outer floral leaf, usually green but sometimes colored, at the base of a flower.



The lower part of the leaf that surrounds the stem.

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Kirk Nelson


Lebanon Hills Regional Park, next to the trail along the northeast side of McDonough Lake

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Created 6/25/2005

Last Updated:

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