Tropical Spiderwort

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Purple, yellow, and white, flowers that lift up the green sprawling leaves and stems. 

While walking along the edge of an orange grove in Hendry County, I spotted a sprawling plant with tiny dark purple flowers. Upon closer examination, I noted that the flower structure was that of the genus Commelina.  I knew there were other species of this genus but I didn’t think I would find one. Well, I did.  The species I found is a Tropical Spiderwort, Commelina benghalensis, one of Florida’s most invasive species. An aggressive weed that is a serious problem for crops and I found it. Good grief!

Tropical Spiderwort has a series of round stems that grow along the ground. The stems have nodes every two or so inches. From each node, a root is dropped in the ground. From the same node, an erect stem with elliptic leaves 1 to 3 inches long and ½ to 1 inch wide grows in an alternate pattern. Tiny flowers composed of three petals. Two lateral shovel shaped petals each about 1/8 inch long and one middle whitish petal that is almost obscure.  The three petals come together forming a tunnel from which two male pollen bearing stamens that cover the female style.  There are two long black stamens that are not functional.

I contacted the USF herbarium in Tampa to confirm my plant identification.  The benghalensis species has been reported in some northern and central counties, however, it has not been reported in southern Florida. It is now.