Tom's Blog

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Spiderwort time

Spiderwort (Tradescantia ohiensis) is now at peak flowering. This intensely blue flower is very attractive, although on a sunny day all the flowers have closed by noon. Cloudy misty days are great for spiderwort, as flowers remain open all day long.

At Pleasant Valley Conservancy we have native populations that persisted along the road cuts even before we began restoration. We also have a large open savanna area where they have been flourishing ever since we began clearing. This was an area heavily infested with black walnut trees that we cleared in the winter of 2000. The following summer spiderwort was flowering everywhere. Checking the literature, I discovered that spiderwort is resistant to the toxic chemical (juglone) produced by black walnuts, which explains how it was able to persist in this degraded area. It has continued to flourish in this area, and with the great controlled burn we had this year, it is in prime condition.

Another interesting habitat for spiderwort is railroad ballast. This soil-less substrate that the railroad puts down between the ties would seem completely sterile, but for some reason spiderwort grows profusely here. Many stretches of the Wisconsin & Southern Railroad track between Middleton and Black Earth are at the moment bright blue (in the morning). It is really impressive to see this attractive plant growing right out of bare pebbles!


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