spiderowrt April alabama

Spiderwort Revisited

We took a stroll from our host’s house in Spanish Fort (where the whole community has sidewalks on both sides of the street!) and found this familiar but not recently-seen volunteer wildflower in abundance.

And here’s the problem at 12 years into blogging one’s life several times weekly: I’ve focused on this plant before. So I will borrow from myself, with permission, and offer these interesting details (again) about a plant you are likely to find along trails and woods margins near you:

In 1974 it was discovered that the stamen hairs of this plant are very sensitive to both radiation and chemical pollution. These filaments consist of single cells that reproduce rapidly to create the long blue threads of the male flower parts. When exposed to ionizing radiation or a variety of chemicals, the cells mutate and change color to pink. This has been used most widely in Japan to detect both where and when air-borne radiation has spread from nuclear plants. Blue is good, pink is bad. From the sampling I’ve seen, I think we’re safe in Floyd County for now.

This wildflower cameo appearance was part of a longer piece on summer bloomery that became a “Road Less Traveled” column in the Floyd Press in 2010 entitled Summer’s Flood of Green.”


About fred

Fred First holds masters degrees in Vertebrate Zoology and physical therapy, and has been a biology teacher and physical therapist by profession. He moved to southwest Virginia in 1975 and to Floyd County in 1997. He maintains a daily photo-blog, broadcasts essays on the Roanoke NPR station, and contributes regular columns for the Floyd Press and Roanoke's Star Sentinel. His two non-fiction books, Slow Road Home and his recent What We Hold in Our Hands, celebrate the riches that we possess in our families and communities, our natural bounty, social capital and Appalachian cultures old and new. He has served on the Jacksonville Center Board of Directors and is newly active in the Sustain Floyd organization. He lives in northeastern Floyd County on the headwaters of the Roanoke River.

2 comments:

  1. I was just out this morning admiring the Spiderwort in my gardens! I adore the plants even though Granddad used to tell me that they were a pesky weed. His name for them was “Meet Me at the Gate” since in his words “If you leave one in the garden, it spread and will soon meet you at the gate.” I had no idea about the change in color and immediately went out to check my gardens. We are safe here on the Bayou! All mine are the prettiest blue!

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