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ORRIN MORRIS: Spiderwort has the unusual ability to detect nuclear radiation

Let us examine another wonder of nature that God has created for our enjoyment. Psalm 40:5 best expresses my thought, "Many, O Lord my God, are the wonders you have done. The things you planned for us no one can recount to you; were I to speak and tell them, they would be too many to declare."SPIDERWORT

Tradescantia hirtusuitfloraSpiderwort is a showy three-petal wildflower with violet-blue flowers and six bright yellow stamens. This wildflower grows along our driveway, along the roadside, and all over the granite outcrops where a little soil has formed.

Close examination reveals several unusual characteristics.

First, the long narrow leaves of single plants remind one of a large spider. That is the traditional view of why the common name was chosen. It looked like a squatting spider.

Second, the flowers only open in the morning. By midday they wilt and become a jelly-like fluid.

Third, the flowers form in clusters above two structures that appear to be leaves. However, they are actually bracts.

Fourth, the stamens are special subjects for biology classes. The filament, or stem that holds the pollen-bearing anthers, looks like a chain. The walls of the cells are very thin and are a favorite subject for observing the cytoplasm and nucleus through a microscope.

Fifth, the spiderwort has the unusual ability to detect nuclear radiation. The hair on the stamen is usually blue, but turns pink as the level of radiation increases.

The botanical name Tradescantia is in honor of John Tradescant, Jr. (1608-1662) His father, John Sr., was a gardener for King Charles I of England. John Jr. came to America and first noted this plant in the Virginia colony in the 17th century, thus the botanical name Tradescantia virginiana, a close cousin of our species, according to author Jack Sanders.

Spiderworts bloom from April to July. Those that grow along my driveway rarely stand more than 12 inches tall; however, the plants around a nearby outcrop reach the full 24 inches or more. The triangular-shaped blooms measure from 1 to 2 inches.

"Many, O Lord my God, are the wonders you have created." Thank you for eyes that see the uniqueness of each creation and a voice that can praise your goodness. Amen

Orrin Morris is a retired Baptist minister, local artist and art teacher. Notecards are available of the wildflowers published in the Citizen. His email is odmsketchingpad@yahoo.com or call him at 770-929-3697.