South Dakota Native Plant Research
Commelinaceae : Tradescantia occidentalis

Commelinaceae : Tradescantia occidentalis


Download Seed: Prairie spiderwort seeds are 1.5-2 mm long. (50 KB)

Download Seedling: The month old prairie spiderwort grown in research greenhouse at SDSU. (36 KB)

Download Mature plant (1.9 MB)

Download Leaves (775 KB)

Family Name


Common Name

Prairie spiderwort

Native American Name

Lakota: čhaŋȟlóǧaŋ pȟáŋpȟaŋla


Tradescantia occidentalis is a subsucculent perennial herb with erect, simple or occasionally branching stems, with 2-6 nodes and growing to 60 cm tall. The stems can have a zig-zag appearance due to the jointed leaf attachment. The simple, alternate leaves are green with a whitish waxy coating, linear-lanceolate, 9-33 cm in length and 4-15 mm wide, often folded, with sheathing bases and entire margins. The inflorescence is an umbellate cyme of few to many flowers at the top of the stem, and at the ends of branches arising from leaf axils, with only 1 to a few open at a time and subtended by elongated bracts similar to the foliage leaves, 6-20 cm long. Flower pedicels are 1-2 cm long with glandular hairs. The 3 sepals are 8-13 mm long with glandular hairs and purplish margins. The 3 petals are broadly ovate, 7-15 mm long and blue to rose in color. The flowers open in the morning and typically wilt by noon. There are 6 stamens with bright yellow anthers and long blue hairs toward the base of the filaments. The fruit is a rounded capsule with three locules, each producing 1- few oblong seeds, 2-4 mm long. Prairie spiderwort blooms from May through August, growing on sandy disturbed soils in western and northeastern South Dakota.

Additional Notes

Prairie spiderwort is an attractive and easy to grow species that can enhance any native plant garden. It is heat and drought tolerant and can grow on dry soils, but will also do well in rich, well drained soils, freely reseeding itself. The flowers attract native bees and butterflies. T. bracteata and T. occidentalis grow in overlapping habitats in many SD locations. In these areas they hybridize freely and are difficult to separate taxonomically, resulting in seeds collected in the wild producing plants with intermediate characteristics.

Horticulture Notes

Seed Collection: Collect seed in June- September.

Germination: Plant seed outside in the fall after the first frost. The seeds need a long (120 day) cold treatment.

Soils: Prefers sandy, well-drained soil, but is quite adaptable to many soil types.

Light: Full sun to partial shade.

Water: Dry to mesic.

Commelinaceae : Tradescantia occidentalis