Hello folks! I hope this post finds you all well. When I left the mansion in Mississippi and moved back to the family farm in February 2013, I had to leave behind a lot of plants. Some I left behind because I thought surely I would find them here so I could just get new ones. One such plant was the Tradescantia pallida (Purple Heart).
While I was living in Mississippi, a good friend of mine (Kyle Hall) would bring me cuttings of plants he picked up here and there. One day, in 2010 or maybe 2009, he brought me a cutting of Purple Heart (Tradescantia pallida). The cutting soon took off and by the time I left in 2013, I had several pots of Purple Heart, it was growing in the west flower bed, plus there were several pots of other plants with Purple Heart growing with them. Every time a stem would break off, I just stuck it in a pot with another plant or in the dirt somewhere.
Then later, I think maybe in the spring of 2012, another friend and fellow plant collector (Walley Morse) also brought me a plant he said was a Purple Heart. I told him I had Purple Heart but it didn’t look like his. So, of course, I gave him a start of the Purple Heart I had already. I was very surprised he didn’t have it already since it was very common there and he was a plant collector. Anyway, the plant he gave me had shorter leaves and were kind of fuzzy. Mine had longer leaves with no fuzz.
So, when I came back to the family farm in mid-Missouri in February 2013, I only brought the plant Walley had given me. I thought surely I would find the “other” Purple Heart with no problem. The one Walley had given me was, in my opinion, kind of unique. Now, the amount of light Tradescantia pallida receive effects the color of the leaves. I had put the above plant in the basement for the remainder of the winter where it actually went dormant and came back to life right before I moved the plants outside for the summer. I thought it went dormant because of the 8-9 hour trip in 30 degree F. temperatures. When the new growth emerged, in the basement with poor light, the leaves were green, not purple… This was my first experience with plants going dormant in the basement then miraculously coming up before I put them outside in the spring. How do they know when to come up when they are in the basement in a steady temperature?
Then, after it was outside for a while, the leaves turned purple and became very hairy. Well, I now had a good computer and internet, so I began my search to find out what in the heck this plant was. I read forums from people who had the same questions and none were answered very well. The ONLY species of Tradescantia I could find with hairy leaves was the Tradescantia sillamontana, which this plant definitely was not. So, I decided I would let my search rest for a while and surely I would accidentally find the answer. I wondered, though, if this plant was a cross between Tradescantia pallida and Tradescantia sillamontana. Time went by and I gave up most of my plants in the late summer of 2014.
Then, LOW AND BEHOLD, when I was at Wagler’s Greenhouse on May 23, 2015, I found the plant in the above photo… I thought surely this must be a Tradescantia sillamontana with its green leaves and white hair. It was growing a little out of whack compared to photos I had seen online, but…
But definitely, I thought, this plant was surely a Tradescantia sillamontana. It goes by several common names including White Gossamer Plant, White Velvet, and Cobweb Spiderwort (and probably other names). Yep, it is in the same family as Spiderworts.
I have had this plant for three years now. It grows like crazy during the summer, then goes dormant in the basement over the winter. After a few months, it starts coming up again. I tried growing it upstairs over the winter, and it just grew all weird. Much better off in the basement dormant.
Then, when my sister and her husband and I were plant shopping on June 7, I found this plant at Wildwood Greenhouse. I really didn’t pay much attention at the time, but knew it was a Tradescantia pallida, a Purple Heart. Well, I just grabbed it because I had finally found another Purple Heart! It was one of those “HOLY CRAP” moments!
After a few days, I put it in a larger pot and placed it with the other plants. I thought the color was a bit off and the leaves were a bit short, but I thought perhaps it was because of the light it was growing in. It didn’t click right away what was really going on.
Then, on July 4 when I moved the plant table and plants to the front porch because of the Japanese Beetle invasion, I took a closer look at this plant. Ummmmmmmmm…. This plant is NOT like my first Tradescantia pallida from cuttings Kyle gave me, it is like the plant Walley brought me. It has shorter, wider leaves with a little fuzz. HAH!
So, that triggered a little research again. This time, instead of searching for images of Tradescantia pallida, I just searched Tradescantia images. I ran across a page from San Marcos Growers that had this plant but had named it ‘Greenlee’ after the man who gave them their start. Their information also says Plant Delights also offered this plant under the name ‘Pale Puma’. They were also told by Scott Ogden (a plantsman in Austin, TX) it was an unnamed heirloom widespread in the Austin area. He suggested it was a hairless selection of Tradescantia sillamontana, or possibly a cross between Tradescantia pallida and Tradescantia sillamontana (as I had previously thought because of the similarities of both species). The link attached to San Marcos Growers takes you to their page if you are interested in reading it. It would be very interesting to know where the name ‘Pale Puma’ came from and what I am actually supposed to call the species name. It seems since San Marcos Growers and Plant Delights are calling it Tradescantia pallida, then I guess I will, too. Plant Delights noted ‘Pale Puma’ was popular and widely grown in the Texas Panhandle since the 1990’s. Maybe I need to email Tony and quiz him a little.
One interesting thing is that the information from Plant Delights says Tradescantia ‘Pale Puma’ produces white flowers while San Marcos says pinkish white. Tradescantia pallida and Tradescantia sillamontana produce pink flowers. Hopefully, the new Tradescantia ‘Pale Puma’ will flower so we can see for ourselves.
From my experience, Tradescantia sillamontana leaves may take on a pinkish tint sometimes (I have photos), but they do not turn purple. The leaves and stems are very hairy all the time not just sometimes. The leaves also grow opposite one another whereas Tradescantia pallida grow in whorls (well, I have photos of them growing in whorls and opposite as young cuttings). What can I say, they are variable (I am beginning to dislike that word). Light, soil, water, time of year… All contribute to this plants variability. Of course, there are the many species in the genus that grow like wild onions with blue flowers along country roads, highways, trails, and in my yard in Mississippi… Plants of the World Online currently list 79 accepted species in the Tradescantia genus of spiderworts.
THEN, on the 6th, my cousin’s wife called and said they were going on a trip and would like me to water their plants, etc. while they were gone. So I went for a visit and she showed me what she needed me to do. It had been several years since I had been to their house so it was a nice tour of their flower beds. Guess what she has growing inside her sunroom? A REAL Tradescantia pallida! After all these years, I found someone with this species and we are related! They have a lot of plants and it will be a great treat watering them while they are gone. I took a few photos already.
I have been wanting to give them several plants, such as a few of the Alocasia and Callisia fragrans. They would look good in their sunroom.
Well, I better close this post and work on a few more pages. Until next time, stay healthy, safe, positive and GET DIRTY!