Tradescantia fluminensis

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Tradescantia fluminensis
Tradescantia fluminensis (Flowers).jpg
Scientific classification OOjs UI icon edit-ltr.svg
Kingdom: Plantae
Clade: Tracheophytes
Clade: Angiosperms
Clade: Monocots
Clade: Commelinids
Order: Commelinales
Family: Commelinaceae
Genus: Tradescantia
T. fluminensis
Binomial name
Tradescantia fluminensis

Tradescantia albiflora

Tradescantia fluminensis is a species of spiderwort native to South America. It is one of several plants known by the common name wandering Jew. It is also known as small-leaf spiderwort, [1] river spiderwort, inch plant, speedy Henry, [2] wandering willie [3] and wandering trad. [4] [5]



The genus is named after the English naturalists and explorers John Tradescant the Elder (c. 1570s – 1638) and John Tradescant the Younger (1608–1662). [6]

The Latin specific epithet fluminensis refers to those born in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. [7] The common name wandering Jew refers both to the wandering habit of several species within Tradescantia, and also to a character from early Christian mythology.


Flower close up Tradescantia fluminensis Flower 1.jpg
Flower close up

Tradescantia fluminensis is a perennial groundcover that spreads along the ground with soft, hairless stems and leaves. The fleshy stems root at any node that is on the surface. The plant has oval, dark-green leaves with pointed tips that are shiny, smooth and slightly fleshy about 1.25–2.5 inches (32–64 mm) long.

The white flowers are terminal, sometimes opposite a leaf, and are on a 1.5 cm long stem. The flowers have three petals and approx. 0.5–1 inch (13–25 mm) in diameter. The sepals are 5–7 mm in size. The three white petals are 8–9 mm in size. The anthers are detached. The flowers are produced in small clusters in summer and the flowers can make several seeds.


Tradescantia fluminensis is grown as a garden plant or houseplant in many places. Even in places where it is a pest it may be grown as a house plant in variegated forms. The plant requires a moist soil to do well but is retarded by cold climates, especially where there is frost or snow. It tolerates heavy shade. Because it requires moisture it grows weakly, if at all, in sunny areas that dry out for long periods. However, because it is a fleshy plant that retains water, it can withstand extended periods of dryness only to resume growth once better conditions return.

Numerous cultivars are available with variegated leaves, of which 'Quicksilver' has gained the Royal Horticultural Society's Award of Garden Merit. [8] [9]

Invasion as a pest

An extensive infestation of Tradescantia fluminensis in Australia. Tradescantia fluminensis habit1 (16189587740).jpg
An extensive infestation of Tradescantia fluminensis in Australia.

Tradescantia fluminensis is considered an invasive species, noxious weed, or pest plant in many places and is consequently targeted for eradication. Seriously affected areas include Australia, [10] New Zealand, [11] the southeastern United States. [12] and Portugal (including the Azores and Madeira) [13] [14] :128

It is classified as a Category 1b Invasive Species in South Africa, [15] and thus in South Africa it may no longer be planted, propagated, or be allowed to disperse, and all trade in their seeds, cuttings or other propagative material is prohibited, in both rural and urban areas. [16]

The seriously invasive qualities of T. fluminensis result from a combination of attributes. Forming a dense mat underneath forest tree cover to 12 inches (30 centimeters) or even more (facilitated by a remarkable shade tolerance) it smothers ground-level plants and prevents the natural regeneration of taller species and if left unchecked, it can lead to the destruction of native forests. [17] [18]

Even where the climate does not permit T. fluminensis to take root, it still can spread rapidly from being transported by animals and humans and even strong winds. The succulent stems break easily at the nodes and establish themselves wherever they land on moist soil. While T. fluminensis does respond to herbicides and other applied weed controls, each segment has the ability to regenerate, so it is able to make a rapid comeback, especially in soft soils where stems may remain underneath the surface.

Eradication methods

Chemical control

Mat-forming growth Tradescantia fluminensis1.jpg
Mat-forming growth

The plant is resistant to chemical control as a result of its glossy leaves and smooth stems, along with its ability to regenerate from small surviving pieces. Nevertheless, for large infested areas this is probably the only means of achieving control. Unfortunately, any chemical that is capable of killing the plant is likely to kill most other plants and so a clear area will result for a period of time. However, since there are treatments that rapidly degrade upon soil contact within a day, this effect is limited to the time that it takes for seeds of other species to germinate and establish themselves. Because of the waxy surface of leaves and stems, a penetrant is needed for effective treatment.

Successful treatments include the following:

Chemical treatment will result in browning off in 3–4 weeks followed by disappearance of living material. However, follow-up is needed several months later (in a frost free climate) to catch any buried plant segments that may have regenerated and possibly a third such spot treatment is required before the area is completely eradicated and even after that attention to a resurgence is advised.

Manual control

Flower Tradescantia fluminensis4 ies.jpg

Repeated deployment of weed-control agents may have a negative effect upon the local environment, in which case the only option remaining is manual clearance. In areas where the plant is a pest this is an arduous task since every single scrap of the weed has to be removed or it will regrow. In less prolific areas, manual removal is less difficult as the plant roots come up easily, and an initial clearance can be accomplished by raking the area. Repeated efforts at intervals of a few months along with regular monitoring for invasion from neighbouring areas will be necessary for full control.

Combined chemical-manual control

In view of the persistence of the plant and the cost of chemical treatment plus the negative effect on other species, especially in regions where it is a pest, a combination of an initial chemical treatment followed by manual removal for the second or possibly third treatment is worth considering. Nevertheless, absolutely scrupulous attention to the removal of every single piece of the stems from both above and below the surface is required before elimination can be assured. [19]

Small-scale control using livestock

There are anecdotal reports of using browsing animals (e.g. sheep) to control the plant. Heavy stocking is suggested to ensure all the infestation is consumed, and as with other methods, ongoing monitoring is required to ensure no scraps of plant material have survived to re-infest the area. [20] For residential properties, chickens are an excellent method to control and remove Tradescantia fluminensis, as they will feed on all parts of the plant.

Biological control

CSIRO has been testing biological control with the leaf-smut fungus Kordyana brasiliensis, in New South Wales and the Dandenong Ranges in Victoria since 2019. [21] [22]

Related Research Articles

<i>Tradescantia</i> Genus of plants

Tradescantia is a genus of 85 species of herbaceous perennial wildflowers in the family Commelinaceae, native to the Americas from southern Canada to northern Argentina, including the West Indies. Members of the genus are known by many common names, including inchplant, wandering jew, spiderwort, dayflower and trad.

<i>Salvinia molesta</i> Species of aquatic plant

Salvinia molesta, commonly known as giant salvinia, or as kariba weed after it infested a large portion of Lake Kariba between Zimbabwe and Zambia, is an aquatic fern, native to south-eastern Brazil. It is a free-floating plant that does not attach to the soil, but instead remains buoyant on the surface of a body of water. The fronds are 0.5–4 cm long and broad, with a bristly surface caused by the hair-like strands that join at the end to form eggbeater shapes. They are used to provide a waterproof covering. These fronds are produced in pairs also with a third modified root-like frond that hangs in the water. It has been accidentally introduced or escaped to countless lakes throughout the United States, including Caddo Lake in Texas, where the invasive species has done extensive damage, killing off other life.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Barton's Bush</span>

Barton's Bush, in Trentham Memorial Park, is the largest remaining area of lowland mixed podocarp/broadleaf forest in the Hutt Valley of New Zealand. Named after Richard Barton who settled in the area in 1841, it was his desire that this section of the native forest should remain whilst the city of Upper Hutt gradually took shape and land was cleared for farming and settling.

<i>Onopordum acanthium</i> Species of flowering plant in the daisy family Asteraceae

Onopordum acanthium is a flowering plant in the family Asteraceae. It is native to Europe and Western Asia from the Iberian Peninsula east to Kazakhstan, and north to central Scandinavia, and widely naturalised elsewhere, with especially large populations present in the United States and Australia. It is a vigorous biennial plant with coarse, spiny leaves and conspicuous spiny-winged stems.

<i>Leucanthemum vulgare</i> Species of flowering plant

Leucanthemum vulgare, commonly known as the ox-eye daisy, oxeye daisy, dog daisy, marguerite and other common names, is a widespread flowering plant native to Europe and the temperate regions of Asia, and an introduced plant to North America, Australia and New Zealand.

<i>Alternanthera philoxeroides</i> Species of aquatic plant

Alternanthera philoxeroides, commonly referred to as alligator weed, is a native species to the temperate regions of South America, which includes Argentina, Brazil, Paraguay and Uruguay. Argentina alone hosts around 27 species that fall within the range of the genus Alternanthera. Its geographic range once covered only the Parana River region of South America, but it has since expanded, having been introduced to over 30 countries, such as the United States, Japan, China, Australia, New Zealand and many more. This invasive species is believed to have been accidentally introduced to these non-native regions through sediments trapped by, or attached to, tanks and cargo of ships travelling from South America to these various areas.

<i>Coccinia grandis</i> Species of plant

Coccinia grandis, the ivy gourd, also known as scarlet gourd, dhendura and kudri, is a tropical vine. It grows primarily in tropical climates and is commonly found in the Indian states where it forms a part of the local cuisine. Coccinia grandis is cooked as a vegetable dish.

<i>Myriophyllum aquaticum</i> Species of flowering plant in the family Haloragaceae

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<i>Anredera cordifolia</i> Species of vine

Anredera cordifolia, commonly known as the Madeira vine or mignonette vine, is a South American species of ornamental succulent vine of the family Basellaceae. The combination of fleshy leaves and thick aerial tubers makes this a very heavy vine. It smothers trees and other vegetation it grows on and can easily break branches and bring down entire trees on its own. Other names include lamb's tail and potato vine.

<i>Carduus pycnocephalus</i> Species of flowering plant in the daisy family Asteraceae

Carduus pycnocephalus, with common names including Italian thistle, Italian plumeless thistle, and Plymouth thistle, is a species of thistle. It is native to the Mediterranean region in southern Europe, North Africa, and Western Asia; East Europe and the Caucasus; and the Indian Subcontinent.

<i>Echium plantagineum</i> in Australia Species of flowering plant

Paterson's curse or Salvation Jane is an invasive plant species in Australia. There are a number of theories regarding where the name Salvation Jane originated, and it is mostly used in South Australia. These explanations include "salvation jane" referring to the flower which looks similar to the bonnets of Salvation Army ladies, its “salvation” to beekeepers because it is often in flower when the honeyflow is down, and due to its use as a source of emergency food for grazing animals when the less drought-tolerant grazing pastures die off. Other names are blueweed, Lady Campbell weed, Riverina bluebell, and purple viper's bugloss.

<i>Lantana camara</i> Species of plant

Lantana camara is a species of flowering plant within the verbena family (Verbenaceae), native to the American tropics. It is a very adaptable species, which can inhabit a wide variety of ecosystems; once it has been introduced into a habitat it spreads rapidly; between 45ºN and 45ºS and more than 1,400 metres in altitude.

<i>Vincetoxicum nigrum</i> Species of plant

Vincetoxicum nigrum, a species in the family Apocynaceae, also known as black swallow-wort, Louise's swallow-wort, or black dog-strangling vine, is a species of plant that is native to Europe and is found primarily in Italy, France, Portugal, and Spain. It is an invasive plant species in the northeastern United States, parts of the Midwest, southeastern Canada, and California. In 2020, wild plants were found in Timaru, New Zealand.

<i>Commelina cyanea</i> Species of flowering plant

Commelina cyanea, commonly known as scurvy weed, is a perennial prostrate herb of the family Commelinaceae native to moist forests and woodlands of eastern Australia, Lord Howe Island and Norfolk Island. The blue flowers appear over the warmer months and are pollinated by bees and flies.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Weed</span> Plant considered undesirable in a particular place or situation

A weed is a plant considered undesirable in a particular situation, growing where it conflicts with human preferences, needs, or goals. Plants with characteristics that make them hazardous, aesthetically unappealing, difficult to control in managed environments, or otherwise unwanted in farm land, orchards, gardens, lawns, parks, recreational spaces, residential and industrial areas, may all be considered weeds. The concept of weeds is particularly significant in agriculture, where the presence of weeds in fields used to grow crops may cause major losses in yields. Invasive species, plants introduced to an environment where their presence negatively impacts the overall functioning and biodiversity of the ecosystem, may also sometimes be considered weeds.

<i>Tradescantia ohiensis</i> Species of flowering plant

Tradescantia ohiensis, commonly known as bluejacket or Ohio spiderwort, is an herbaceous plant species in the genus Tradescantia native to eastern and central North America. It is the most common and widely distributed species of Tradescantia in the United States, where it can be found from Maine in the northeast, west to Minnesota, and south to Texas and Florida. It also has a very small distribution in Canada in extreme southern Ontario near Windsor.

<i>Tradescantia spathacea</i> Species of herb

Tradescantia spathacea, the oyster plant, boatlily or Moses-in-the-cradle, is a herb in the Commelinaceae family first described in 1788. It is native to Belize, Guatemala, and southern Mexico but widely cultivated as an ornamental and naturalized in parts of Florida, Texas, Hawaii, and various oceanic islands.

<i>Pentanema britannica</i> Species of flowering plant

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<i>Tradescantia sillamontana</i> Species of flowering plant

Tradescantia sillamontana is a perennial evergreen herbaceous plant of the genus Tradescantia. This species is one of the most succulent and xerophytic, but at the same time one of the most attractive species of Tradescantia. It is endemic to dry areas of the State of Nuevo León in northeastern Mexico and can also be found in Spain and Italy.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Mimosa in Australia</span>

In Australia, Mimosa pigra has been declared a noxious weed or given similar status under various weed or quarantine Acts. It has been ranked as the tenth most problematic weed and is listed on the Weeds of National Significance. It is currently restricted to the Northern Territory where it infests approximately 80,000 hectares of coastal floodplain.


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  2. "Inch Plant". American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals . Retrieved 4 March 2022.
  3. "INVESTIGATING PLANT PESTS IN YOUR GREEN SPACE10. Wandering willie: Tradescantia fluminensis" (PDF). Government of New Zealand. Retrieved 17 February 2023.
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  9. "AGM Plants – Ornamental" (PDF). Royal Horticultural Society. July 2017. p. 102. Retrieved 24 December 2018.
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  12. Florida Exotic Plant Pest Council (2007). "Florida Exotic Pest Plant Council's 2007 List of Invasive Plant Species". Archived from the original on 12 October 2008. Retrieved 14 July 2008.
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  15. "Invasive Species South Africa - Protecting Biodiversity from Invasion - South Africa's Invasive Species Legislation". Archived from the original on 9 January 2016. Retrieved 1 January 2016.
  16. "Legal Obligations Regarding Invasive Alien Plants in South Africa". Archived from the original on 27 January 2016. Retrieved 1 January 2016.
  17. Department of Primary Industries, Victoria (2011). "Impact Assessment – Wandering creeper (Tradescantia fluminensis) in Victoria" . Retrieved 5 October 2011.
  18. Kelly, David; Skipworth, J. P. (1984). "Tradescantia fluminensis in a Manawatu (New Zealand) forest: I. Growth and effects on regeneration". New Zealand Journal of Botany. Royal Society of New Zealand. 22 (3): 393–397. doi:10.1080/0028825x.1984.10425270. ISSN   0028-825X. OCLC   1760278.
  19. Dugdale, Tony M.; McLaren, David A.; Conran, John G. (2015). "The Biology of Australian Weeds 65. Tradescantia fluminensis Vell". Plant Protection Quarterly. 30 (4): 116–125, See p. 123.
  20. Lynne Mcanulty-Street (Tareha School Principal, 1993–1995) (7 June 2012). "Accidentally Gardening: Garden #6 – Kaweka ranges over Hawkes Bay". [Wandering Jew] is like candy to sheep. Five cleared a dense overgrown patch in a week, and we watched them scraping the dirt to get at the underground runners. Five years later we went back and [none] had grown there since.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: numeric names: authors list (link)
  21. "Wandering trad biological control". CSIRO. 2019.
  22. van der Walt, Karin (2017). "Biocontrol of Tradescantia fluminensis in Wellington: how are our beetles doing?" (PDF). New Zealand Garden Journal. 20 (2): 12–16.