Ohio Spiderwort

by Dee Hudson Photography

An Ohio spiderwort in bloom.

The Ohio spiderwort (Tradescantia ohiensis) first captured my attention about 25 years ago, when I saw it blooming in a neighbor’s yard. With bluish–green, grass–like leaves, I thought I was seeing a grass in bloom. On the contrary, this is a native wildflower. The neighbor’s flowers were so lovely that I decided to come back later in the day with my camera (a film camera!) and take some pictures. Yellow and purple simultaneously in a bloom — what could be more striking than these complimentary colors together on a flower?

A spiderwort with closed blooms.

Seek this native flower in the morning to see the lovely blooms, for in the afternoon they could be closed.

So, with my camera in hand, I came back in the late afternoon to photograph and to my surprise, the flowers were all closed! I learned that the spiderwort prefers cooler temperatures, so if you want to see the flowers you have to hike out early in the morning, for when the temperature rises in the afternoon, the blooms close.

An Ohio spiderwort in the morning dew.

Here little dew droplets coat the flower buds and leaves on a misty morning. The purple–pink stems are quite striking next to the purple flowers and green leaves.

Each flower bloom is only open for a few hours and once the flower closes, it will never open again. So, the pollinators have to work fast to get their job done! Good luck to the bumble bees, a favorite pollinator of the spiderwort.

A hoverfly feeds on the pollen of a spiderwort flower.

A hoverfly feeds on the pollen of a spiderwort flower.

Here is a fly I discovered on the spiderwort. I kept trying to shoo her away, but she kept coming back. I finally gave up and decided to photograph this hoverfly. At first I thought she was a bee, but with only one pair of wings, she proved to be a fly. Yes, I keep saying “she” because that is her sex. On hoverflies, it is easy to determine the sex by looking at the eyes. On a female, there is a space between the eyes, as we see on this fly. The males will have bigger eyes and their eyes will come together on the top of their heads.

This female hoverfly appears to be eating the pollen. Though they eat flower nectar, they are one of the few insects that can also digest pollen — a fun hoverfly fact that everyone needs to know!

I photographed all these flowers in a prairie field at Nachusa Grasslands. The spiderwort are very easy to find there along the Clear Creek Knolls trail and some should still be blooming this week. Park in the lot on Lowden Road, just south of Flagg Road. Just hike along the mowed lane and the flowers should be visible to the north and south of the trail. The pale purple coneflowers and wild quinine (they are white and look like cauliflower) were also in bloom, so get ready for quite a flower show. Enjoy!

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