The plant family Commelinaceae was named and described by Charles François Brisseau de Mirbel in Histoire Naturelle Générale et Particulaire des Plantes in 1804.
This family is commonly referred to as the Dayflower and/or Spiderwort family.
As of 12-14-22 when this page was last updated, Plants of the World Online by Kew lists 39 accepted genera in this family. Out of 39 genera, I am only familiar with Callisia, Commelina, Cyanotis, and Tradescantia. You can click on the plant names below to go to their own pages.
For more information about this family of plants, please click on the links below. The links take you directly to the information about the family.
PLANTS OF THE WORLD ONLINE
FLORA OF MISSOURI
FLORA OF NORTH AMERICA
The Callisia fragrans (Grandpa’s Pipe, Inch Plant, Etc.) has been interesting but we have had our ups and downs…
I brought this Callisia repens (Bolivian Jew, ETC.) home from a local greenhouse in 2019. It was incorrectly labeled Callisia navicularis. It said it was a Bolivian Jew and the photo was right, but the scientific name wasn’t right at all. This plant did great and even flowered, but it started fizzling out and died after I brought it inside for the winter. I haven’t found another one yet… Even if they don’t make great houseplants, they make a nice pot for outside during the summer.
There are three species of Commelina growing on the farm. In 2021, I noticed Commelina communis (Asiatic Dayflower) were growing here and there on the edge of the yard besides in their usual areas. The anthers of C. communis “typically” have reddish brown spots…
I found a small colony of Commelina diffusa (Spreading Dayflower) growing in only one area below the pond in 2019. I haven’t noticed it anywhere since…
In 2019, the Commelina erecta (Whitemouth Dayflower) had the largest colonies by far. There was a large colony in a wooded area behind the chicken house and in front of the pond in the back of the farm.
I found this Cyanotis somaliensis (Pussy Ears, Furry Kittens) at a local greenhouse on March 29 in 2021. It is a neat plant and did fairly well in a pot on the back porch during the summer. I brought it inside for the winter on October 28 with the rest of the potted plants, so we shall see how it does inside.
It took me a few years to figure out what this plant was… Tradescantia ‘Pale Puma’ is likely a cross between Tradescantia pillada and Tradescantia sillamontana and has features of both parents. Depending on the light, it’s leaves and stems can be green to this maroonish color. Sometimes its leaves are more hairy, too.
I brought this variegated form of Tradescantia fluminensis (Small-Leaved Spiderwort) home from a local greenhouse in 2018. I like its variegated leaves and white flowers. The other Tradescantia in my collection have pink flowers… Common names include Small-Leaved Spiderwort, Inch Plant, River Spiderwort, Wandering Gypsy, Wandering Jew, Wandering Trad, Wanding Willie, and probably others. Most “trailing” species of Tradescantia grown as houseplants are commonly called Wandering Jew. When someone asks be about the Wandering Jew, my reply is always, “Which one?” “Officially”, Tradescantia fluminensis is the Small-Leaved Spiderwort although you might see it called Small-Leaved Inch Plant…
The Tradescantia ohiensis (Bluejacket) is a common sight along highways and backroads. It is a native wildflower found in eastern and central North America. There are other species that look very similar… I don’t have a page for this species yet because I need more photos…
My first experience with Tradescantia pallida (Purple Heart) was when a friend gave me a cutting in 2010 when I was living in Mississippi. I grew them in pots and flowerbeds. When I moved back to the family farm in Missouri in 2013, I left it behind because I was sure I could find another one here. Didn’t happen… I contacted the same friend in 2018 and he send me several cuttings.
Personally, I have to admit the Tradescantia sillamontana (White Gossamer Plant) is my favorite Tradescantia. I like its fuzzy leaves and the way it grows. Sometimes the leaves are green and sometimes they have a reddish tint. One year, the plants in one pot were green and the other pot were a maroonish color. I could understand that if they were growing in different light, but they were right next to each other. There is a varietage form of this species which would be AWESOME! Common names include White Gossamer Plant, White Velvet, Cobweb Spiderwort, Hairy Wandering Jew, and possibly others.
Tradescantia zebrina (Wandering Jew, Etc.) is possibly the most popular of the trailing Tradescantia species. There are several cultivars and color variations which make it attractive as a houseplant. I think the common name for this species is Inch Plant on “official” websites… I need to do some name changing…
That’s all I have experience with in the plant family Commelinaceae.