Tradescantia bracteata (Long-bracted Spiderwort)

Plant Info
Also known as: Bracted Spiderwort
Family:Commelinaceae (Spiderwort)
Life cycle:perennial
Habitat:part shade, sun; dry sandy soil; prairies, along roads, edges of woods
Bloom season:June - August
Plant height:2 to 12 inches
Wetland Indicator Status:GP: FACU MW: FACU NCNE: FACU
MN county distribution (click map to enlarge):Minnesota county distribution map
National distribution (click map to enlarge):National distribution map

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Detailed Information

Flower: Flower shape: 3-petals Cluster type: raceme

[photo of flowers] A raceme of a few to many flowers form at the top of the plant, rarely from a branch arising from a leaf axil in the upper plant. Flowers are 1 to 1½ inch across, with 3 egg shaped blue to rose-violet petals. In the center are 6 stamens the color of the petals with long plume-like hairs and bright yellow tips surrounding a single slender blue style.

[photo of sepals] Sepals are oval with pointed tips, densely covered in a mix of long glandular and non-glandular hairs, offset between the petals, and are about half the petal length. The 2 leaf-like bracts are often longer, wider and flatter than the leaves, with dense hairs along the edges and at the base that cups the flower cluster. Flower stalks are ½ to 1 inch long, become erect while flowers bloom but recurve back down while seed is set.

Leaves and stems: Leaf attachment: alternate Leaf type: simple

[photo of leaves] Leaves are lance-linear to linear, 4 to 10 inches long, the larger ones up to ¾ inch wide, and stiff. Parallel veins are prominent, the blade folded up along the mid-vein, the leaf base wrapping around the stem. Stems and leaves are smooth or have scattered hairs, especially along leaf edges and the leaf base enclosing the stem. Multiple stems emerge from underground crown but are rarely branched.


Of Minnesota's 3 native Spiderworts, Long-bracted Spiderwort is dominant in the west and southern tall-grass prairie region and the most widespread in the state. Though it tolerates of a wide range of soils it prefers drier soils than Ohio Spiderwort (Tradescantia ohioensis) but, while its range overlaps with Prairie Spiderwort (Tradescantia occidentalis), it is not well adapted to extremely sandy sites. It can do well in the home landscape but cannot compete well with better adapted, taller species when planted in richer soils.The flower cluster is very similar to our other 2 spiderworts but T. bracteata can be distinguished by its shorter height, unbranched stems, dense hairs on the flower stalks and sepals, and broad bracts. T. occidentalis is the most slender and spidery of the 3, usually branching, and with narrower bracts and shorter hairs on the sepals. T. ohiensis has hairless sepals, relatively flat, floppy leaves, and can reach heights over 3 feet.

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More photos

Photos by K. Chayka taken at Battle Creek Regional Park, Ramsey County, at Grey Cloud Dunes SNA, Washington County, and at Gneiss Outcrops SNA, Yellow Medicine County.


Have you seen this plant in Minnesota, or have any other comments about it?

Posted by: Mark - Belwin Conservancy, Afton MN
on: 2012-05-27 21:47:14

Approx foot-high plants growing on the edge of a shallow pond.

Posted by: Kay - Hennipin County
on: 2012-05-29 16:53:58

I've seen lots of these in gardens this May.

Posted by: Janene - Fillmore County, Root River Bike Trail
on: 2013-06-11 09:45:35

They are plentiful this year, right along the Root River Bike Trail, near Isonaurs, 3miles NE of Preston.

Posted by: Julie - Minneapolis
on: 2015-06-08 10:19:38

Hello! I have a large area of these growing in my yard. I believe the former home owner was working on native plant gardens, which were quite overtaken with weeds. But this one sure has flourished. I'm wondering if it does okay being transplanted? And any other tips for its care you have.

Posted by: Tom - Northwood Park in New Hope, MN
on: 2015-07-09 08:09:14

On the north branch of Bassett Creek that flows through the park.

Posted by: Kim - Cook county by Temperance River State Park by biking trail
on: 2016-07-13 10:27:25

Was surprised to see this flower in northeastern mn so close to Lake Superior. Just spotted one plant just west of where the bike trail crosses Temperance River.

Posted by: Jean Wall - South Minneapolis
on: 2018-05-21 13:03:07

I found this blooming by my garage, on very rough ground next to the alley. Thank you for this identification site. I am a recent transplant from WA and need to learn a new set of native plants.

Posted by: Sue Wiegrefe - Houston, MN
on: 2019-06-01 14:34:11

We have an entity I was told is Virginia Spiderwort in our native plantings in predominantly sand. It is less than 1 ft tall and more orchid in color vs. the blue of ohiensis. Is there some synonymy going on? - I can't find it in many listings of wild flowers of MN.

Posted by: K. Chayka
on: 2019-06-01 23:06:34

Sue, Tradescantia virginiana is native further south and east, not to Minnesota.

Posted by: Stephanie - Golden Valley
on: 2020-05-25 11:58:32

The plant popped up next to a tree ring in the backyard. I've been in my home for over 15 years and this is the first time I've seen it. I'm wondering how it got there and whether I can safely re-home it to one of my garden beds. It's such a pretty plant I'd like to put it in a nice location.

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