Plant of the Week: Mrs. Loewer Ohio spiderwort

The High Line's planting design is inspired by the self-seeded landscape that grew up between rail tracks after the trains stopped running in the 1980s. Today, the High Line includes more than 300 species of perennials, grasses, shrubs, and trees – each chosen for their hardiness, adaptability, diversity, and seasonal variation in color and texture. Some of the species that originally grew on the High Line's rail bed are reflected in the park landscape today. This week we share one of our gardeners' current favorites with you.

With the cold settling into the High Line's landscape, the eye gets accustomed to the sight of sun-bleached forbs that stop growing for the season. On the Hudson River Overlook at 15th Street however, tufts of deep purple blades defy the oncoming winter against the tan backdrop of their less hardy neighbors.

Tradescantia ohiensis 'Mrs. Loewer' holds on to its color for the coldest months of the year. Volunteers pruning dormant perennials during the annual cutback in March will encounter the plant's purple clusters ahead of even the crocus' first appearance.

Tradescantia ohiensis, also called bluejacket in its native state Ohio, prefers to rest during the heat waves of August and September when it nearly disappears, lying flat under the lush summer foliage of other perennials on the Hudson Overlook. It will resprout in early fall, flower again and develop its striking winter foliage.

In contrast to its vegetative tissue, the Ohio spiderwort's light purple bisexual flowers are short-lived, a tribute to Tradescantia ohiensis' relatives in the dayflower family (Commelinaceae). Another family feature is the highly viscous sap of the plant which will gum up any pruners trying to interfere with its random life cycle.

The sap of the Ohio spiderwort can be worked into a poultice to soothe insect bites and stings and to infuse its roots for a cure of inner organ irritations. Today on the High Line, observers appreciate the cool blue it adds to the green mass of the growing season, holding ground without competing for much space, despite the potential for dominating a large scale prairie landscape in its native plains.

Tradescantia ohiensis should be planted in average to dry locations with well-drained soil. Full sun with hints of shade is preferred.

Hudson River Overlook at 15th Street

Our horticultural team counts on members and friends like you to help keep the High Line beautiful and thriving. Join our community of supporters who play an essential role in the High Line's most important gardening projects.

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