prairie spiderwort

(Tradescantia occidentalis var. occidentalis)

Conservation Status
prairie spiderwort
Photo by Kirk Neslon
  IUCN Red List

not listed


N5? - Secure

SNR - Unranked


not listed

Wetland Indicator Status
  Great Plains

UPL - Obligate upland


UPL - Obligate upland

  Northcentral & Northeast

UPL - Obligate upland


Prairie spiderwort is a 16 to 40 tall, erect, perennial forb that rises on 1 to many stems from thick, fleshy, fibrous roots.

The stems are erect or ascending, often branched, usually hairless, green, and covered with a whitish, waxy or powdery film (glaucous). There are 2 to 6 nodes on the stem and up to 10 between nodes.

The leaves are alternate, linear, 3½ to 12 long, and 1 16 to ½ wide but usually less than wide. They are hairless, bright green, glaucous, and rolled inward, not keeled. 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 and rolled inward toward the upper side.

The inflorescence is a tight, umbrella-like cluster of up to 25 flowers arising from the same point. They appear at the end of the stem, at the ends of branches, and often on long stalks rising from the leaf axils. A pair of bracts below the inflorescence are similar to the leaves and about the same size, 2 to 8 long.

The flowers are 1 to 1½ wide. They are on to 1 long stalks which droop when in bud, becoming erect when the flower opens. The flower stalks and sepals are sparsely hairy with minute, glandular hairs, the hairs no more than 1 64 (0.5 mm) long. The sepals may have a tuft of hairs at the tip. The 3 petals are bright blue to rose or magenta and broadly 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 fruit is a papery, nearly round to oblong capsule ¼ or less in diameter with 2 to 6 seeds.




8 to 24


Flower Color


Bright blue to rose or magenta


Similar Species


Bracted spiderwort (Tradescantia bracteata) stems are usually unbranched and bright green. The leaves are bright green and keeled, not rolled inward. Neither the stems nor the leaves are glaucous. The bracts are 2 to 12 long, often longer and wider than the leaves. The sepals and flower stalks are densely hairy with both long and short hairs.

Ohio spiderwort (Tradescantia ohiensis) is a taller plant, 16 to 40 tall at maturity. The stems are glaucous. The leaves are glaucous and flat, not rolled inward. The bracts are 2 to 8 long and no wider than the leaves. The sepals and flower stalks are usually hairless.


Dry or moderate moisture. Prairies, meadows, roadsides. Full sun.




June 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)  



Subordinate Taxa






Tradescantia occidentalis var. melanthera

Tradescantia occidentalis var. typica


Common Names


prairie spiderwort

western 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.

Visitor Photos

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Kirk Neslon


Prairie spiderwort at Lebanon Hills Regional Park. Prolific along the road leading in to the Visitors Center.

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Prairie spiderwort at Crosby Farm Regional Park

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Plant and flower

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Wayne Rasmussen

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Visitor Videos

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Other Videos
  Minnesota Native Plant - Western Spiderwort (Tradescantia Occidentalis var. Occidentalis)

Published on Jun 24, 2013

This video shows the Western Spiderwort (Tradescantia Occidentalis var. Occidentalis). A beautiful Minnesota native plant that looks great in the morning throughout June and July.

  Honeybees on Spiderwort

Published on Jun 2, 2014

The Western Spiderwort, which is also native to the east go figure started flowering and honeybees started collecting the pollen. The species name is Tradescantia occidentalis.

  Spiderwort Time-lapse
Reva McKinney

Published on Jun 25, 2013

Testing out the time-lapse feature on my spiderwort plant in my garden. The blooms open and close in the mornin' and evenin'. :)

All rights to the music are reserved by the artist.




Visitor Sightings

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Be sure to include a location.
  Judy Luhman

Location: Detroit Lakes, MN

volunteer growing in our flowerbed

  Kirk Nelson

Location: Lebanon Hills Regional Park

Prolific along the road leading in to the Visitors Center

prairie spiderwort  
  Kirk Nelson

Location: Crosby Farm Regional Park

prairie spiderwort  
  Wayne Rasmussen

Location: Joy Park & Preserve in Maplewood, MN

prairie spiderwort  
  Kirk Nelson

Location: Crosby Farm Regional Park, St.Paul, Ramsey County

prairie spiderwort  




Created 6/25/2005

Last Updated:

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