Tradescantia bracteata (Long-bracted Spiderwort)
|Also known as:||Bracted Spiderwort|
|Habitat:||part shade, sun; dry sandy soil; prairies, along roads, edges of woods|
|Bloom season:||June - August|
|Plant height:||2 to 12 inches|
|Wetland Indicator Status:||GP: FACU MW: FACU NCNE: FACU|
|MN county distribution (click map to enlarge):|
|National distribution (click map to enlarge):|
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A raceme of a few to many flowers form at the top of the plant, rarely from a branch arising from a leaf axil in the upper plant. Flowers are 1 to 1½ inch across, with 3 egg shaped blue to rose-violet petals. In the center are 6 stamens the color of the petals with long plume-like hairs and bright yellow tips surrounding a single slender blue style.
Sepals are oval with pointed tips, densely covered in a mix of long glandular and non-glandular hairs, offset between the petals, and are about half the petal length. The 2 leaf-like bracts are often longer, wider and flatter than the leaves, with dense hairs along the edges and at the base that cups the flower cluster. Flower stalks are ½ to 1 inch long, become erect while flowers bloom but recurve back down while seed is set.
Leaves and stems:
Leaves are lance-linear to linear, 4 to 10 inches long, the larger ones up to ¾ inch wide, and stiff. Parallel veins are prominent, the blade folded up along the mid-vein, the leaf base wrapping around the stem. Stems and leaves are smooth or have scattered hairs, especially along leaf edges and the leaf base enclosing the stem. Multiple stems emerge from underground crown but are rarely branched.
Of Minnesota's 3 native Spiderworts, Long-bracted Spiderwort is dominant in the west and southern tall-grass prairie region and the most widespread in the state. Though it tolerates of a wide range of soils it prefers drier soils than Ohio Spiderwort (Tradescantia ohioensis) but, while its range overlaps with Prairie Spiderwort (Tradescantia occidentalis), it is not well adapted to extremely sandy sites. It can do well in the home landscape but cannot compete well with better adapted, taller species when planted in richer soils.The flower cluster is very similar to our other 2 spiderworts but T. bracteata can be distinguished by its shorter height, unbranched stems, dense hairs on the flower stalks and sepals, and broad bracts. T. occidentalis is the most slender and spidery of the 3, usually branching, and with narrower bracts and shorter hairs on the sepals. T. ohiensis has hairless sepals, relatively flat, floppy leaves, and can reach heights over 3 feet.
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Photos by K. Chayka taken at Battle Creek Regional Park, Ramsey County, at Grey Cloud Dunes SNA, Washington County, and at Gneiss Outcrops SNA, Yellow Medicine County.
Have you seen this plant in Minnesota, or have any other comments about it?