trad·​es·​can·​tia ˌtra-də-ˈskan(t)-sh(ē-)ə How to pronounce tradescantia (audio)
plural tradescantias
: any of a genus (Tradescantia of the family Commelinaceae, the spiderwort family) of American monocotyledonous usually trailing or creeping plants with narrow leaves and often short-lived white, rose, blue, or violet flowers and that includes some (such as the inch plant) grown as houseplants especially for their ornamental usually striped foliage : spiderwort

Examples of tradescantia in a Sentence

Recent Examples on the Web One easy way to water tradescantia is to set it in your sink and tub, and fill the basin with a few inches of water. Jenny Krane, Better Homes & Gardens, 27 Sep. 2022 Some varieties of tradescantia have variegated green and purple leaves that can turn especially bright outdoors, and others have leaves that are velvety to the touch. Jenny Krane, Better Homes & Gardens, 27 Sep. 2022

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Word History


borrowed from New Latin, genus name, from John Tradescant †1638 English gardener + -ia -ia entry 1

Note: The genus and species Tradescantia virginiana was described by linnaeus in Species plantarum, vol. 1 (Stockholm, 1753), p. 288. His sources took the name Tradescantia from the German botanist Heinrich Bernhard Rupp's Flora Ienensis (Frankfurt/Leipzig, 1718), p. 55. Rupp, in turn, based the name on the description of the plant in the English botanist and apothecary John Parkinson's Paradisi in sole paradisus terrestris, or A garden of all sorts of pleasant flowers (London, 1629), p. 152: "This Spider-wort is of late knowledge, and for it the Christian world is indebted vnto that painfull industrious searcher, and louer of all natures varieties, Iohn Tradescant … who first receiued it of a friend, that brought it out of Virginia, thinking it to bee the Silke Grasse that groweth there, and hath imparted hereof, as of many other things, both to me and others …"

First Known Use

1757, in the meaning defined above

Time Traveler
The first known use of tradescantia was in 1757

Dictionary Entries Near tradescantia

Cite this Entry

“Tradescantia.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 30 Sep. 2023.

Last Updated: - Definition revised
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