Tradescantia virginiana (spiderwort)
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Painting by Debbie Blankert
This has been a very familiar plant to me as it has been a constant companion in my gardens. The intriguing buds fall in every direction over the erect stalk and remind me of a spider with its eight legs traveling in many directions. The small buds, covered by tiny white hairs, open to display a gorgeous pinkish, blue-violet flower. In the painting of the spiderwort, I greatly increased its size to draw attention to the curious manner in which the buds emerge.
This painting took me a long time to complete. The buds fell in every direction and finding the proper design was challenging. The tiny hairs that cover the buds stuck out like cowlicks too numerous to count. The color of the leaves lacked drama. The real drama was in way the flowers burst forth from the buds. A late summer drought caused a yellowish brown discoloration on the buds which added interest and gave me what I needed for the painting.
The root from this plant was used by the American Indians for female problems, kidney and stomach ailments and as a laxative. A poultice made from smashing the plant’s leaf was applied to insect bites, stings and cancers. It was often mixed with several other plants when it was used as a kidney treatment. (www.newcastle-ny.org ) An interesting and amusing cure involved a gummy substance which was extracted from the root for the treatment of insanity. By making an incision on the top of the patient’s head and placing a piece of the gum into the wound, a person’s “craziness” was healed. (www.herbnet.com; USDA)