May 28th, 2015

Spiderwort: Nature’s Geiger Counter

Spiderwort, Tradescantia virginiana, spider lily

Purple-blue filament hairs in spiderwort, or Tradescantia virginiana, show a healthy garden.

It seems like nearly every garden in Central Virginia has them, and they are plentiful here at Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden too — in Flagler and Grace Arents Garden.  But did you know that Spiderwort, or Tradescantia virginiana, the plant with the odd name, is a detector of radiation?  In response to low levels of nuclear radiation, the filament hairs of the stamen of some spiderworts change from purple-blue to pink. Luckily, as you can see from our flowers here, all is well in the Garden.


M. Christine Watson is PR & Marketing Intern at Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden. She has a great interest in gardening with a background in graphic design, photography and experimental art. When she isn't in her studio or garden, she can be found in the kitchen experimenting in culinary art, using many of the herbs and edible plants she grows.

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