small-leaf spiderwort

Tradescantia fluminensis

small-leaf spiderwort

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There are many people who are fond of Tradescantia for its multitude of foliage variations and ease of propagation. However in some countries, Tradescantia is considered an agricultural pest. Naturalization of wandering Jew in floodplain forests and bottomlands has occurred from central Florida to the Pan Handle, in counties including Alachua, Orange, Leon, and Flagler. Tradescantia is considered a Category I exotic invasive by the Florida Exotic Pest Plant Council.

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Tradescantia is a creeping, succulent, multi-branching perennial herb that can form a dense ground cover and root freely at nodes. Alternate, lanceolate shaped leaves have parallel veins that are either green or tinged with purple. Leaves are also somewhat pubescent. Leaf blades arise from short, closed sheaths and are 2 inches long and 0.75 inches wide. Some are glabrous or have ciliate margins. Flowers are white, in small clusters at stem tips. Fruits are small, 3-parted capsules containing black, pitted seeds.

Reproduction occurs vegetatively from stems that root at the soil surface, or by fragmentation. Fragments may also be dispersed by water. Humans, animals, and machinery facilitate the spread of this invasive species.

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Tradescantia will invade disturbed areas, natural forests, riparian zones, urban areas, hammocks, and wetlands. The growth habit of wandering Jew is such that it will form a dense groundcover and smother the native groundcover and seedlings. Once established, Tradescantia is difficult to control.

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The first step in preventative control of Tradescantia is to limit planting and removal of existing plants within the landscape. Any fragments should be disposed of properly as to prevent reinfestation.

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Cattle and chickens eat T. fluminensis. The planting of trees and other native species will help to out-compete this species.

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Hand weeding is suitable for removal of small infestations. Be certain to remove all fragments, as these will reroot and reinfest an area.

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There are no known biological agents for Tradescantia control. However in New Zealand and areas where this weed is a problem, investigations are being conducted.

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Chemical control by herbicides is considered a practical means of controlling large infestations. Repeat applications may be necessary. Limited research has been conducted but glyphosate or triclopyr at 1-2% are considered the best approach thus far.

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References and Useful Links:

Floridata Homepage

University of Florida Center for Aquatic and Invasive Plants

University of Florida’s Cooperative Extension Electronic Data Information Source

Langeland, K.A. and K. Craddock Burks. 1998. Identification and Biology of Non-Native Plants in Florida's Natural Areas. IFAS Publication SP 257. University of Florida, Gainesville. 165 pp.

The Plant Conservation Alliance's Alien Plant Working Group. Weeds Gone Wild: Alien Plant Invaders of Natural Areas

Pacific Island Ecosystems at Risk (PIER). Plant Threats to Pacific Ecosystems

USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service. Plants Database

Global Invasive Species Database


Excerpted from the University of Florida, IFAS Extension, Circular 1529, Invasive Species Management Plans for Florida, 2008 by:

Greg MacDonald, Associate Professor Jay Ferrell, Assistant Professor and Extension Weed Specialist
Brent Sellers, Assistant Professor and Extension Weed Specialist
Ken Langeland, Professor and Extension Weed Specialist Agronomy Department, Gainesville and Range Cattle REC, Ona
Tina Duperron-Bond, DPM – Osceola County
Eileen Ketterer-Guest, former Graduate Research Assistant

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Invasive Plant Management - Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission

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