Wandering dude

Tradescantia fluminensis, T. pallida and T. spathacea
T. fluminensis
T. fluminensis
T. fluminensis
T. fluminensis
T. pallida
T. pallida
T. pallida
T. pallida
T. spathacea
T. spathacea (giant form)
T. spathacea (variegated form)
T. spathacea flowers from the giant form
T. spathacea

Spreading fleshy leafed plant with leaves culminating in a point. Differing species have either a long or extremely short internodal stem.

Common names 
Also known as: rhoeo, Moses-in-the-cradle, Moses in a boat, boat lily, oyster plant, , purple heart, spiderwort , wandering spider wort,
Flowering time 
Spring to Autumn
various species native from Southern Mexico to South America
State declaration 
Council declaration 
Class R – Reduce populations
Known distribution 

Widely naturalised in southern and eastern Australia (i.e. in eastern Queensland, eastern New South Wales, Victoria, Tasmania, south-eastern South Australia and south-western Western Australia). Also naturalised on Lord Howe Island.


A weed of forests, forest margins, urban bushland, open woodlands, riparian vegetation, roadsides, ditches, waste areas, disturbed sites and gardens. It prefers damp and shaded areas in temperate and sub-tropical regions, but will also grow in more open habitats and in tropical regions.


Sprawling plant with relatively soft and fleshy leaves.

Impact and control methods 

 All species can be found growing in the understory of disturbed forests, along roadsides, riparian areas and coastal forests. They are also common in old home sites. Once established in these habitats, they have the potential to grow forming a dense ground cover or “bed” in the understory 

Stem and leaves 

T. fluminensis - The stems are somewhat fleshy (i.e. semi-succulent) in nature, branched, and produce roots (i.e. adventitious roots) at each of the swollen joints (i.e. nodes). The glossy leaves are alternately arranged and their bases form short sheaths (5-10 mm long) around the creeping stems. The somewhat fleshy (i.e. semi-succulent) leaf blades (3-6.5 cm long and 1-3 cm wide) are dark green on top and often slightly purplish underneath. They may be either broadly lance-shaped (i.e. lanceolate), egg-shaped in outline (i.e. ovate), or oblong with entire margins and pointed tips (i.e. acute apices). Leaf sheaths can be either hairy (i.e. pubescent) or hairless (i.e. glabrous), while the leaf blades are hairless, or occasionally with some small hairs (i.e. cilia) along their margins.


T.pallida - The stems and upper surfaces of the leaves are a deep royal purple that becomes suffused with a faint dusty turquoise-gunmetal undertone as the foliage grows older. The undersides of the leaves are a vivid violet that shades towards pink where the petioles clasp and encircle the stem. 


T.spathacea - Erect perennial sub-succulent herb with short stout erect stems up to 20 cm tall, often clustered and forming large colonies. Leaves imbricate, crowded, linear-lanceolate to oblong-lanceolate, 20 - 35 cm long, mostly 3 - 5 cm broad, acuminate at the apex, scarcely narrowed at base above the sheath, usually dark green above, reddish-purple beneath

Flowers and fruits 

T. fluminensis - the flowers (about 2 cm across) are borne in small clusters near the tips of the branches. Each cluster has two small leafy bracts at the base and the individual flowers are borne on stalks (i.e. pedicels) 1-1.5 cm long. They have three white petals (7-10 mm long) with pointed tips (i.e. acute apices), three greenish sepals (6-8 mm long), and six small yellow stamens. Flowering occurs mainly during spring and summer.


T. pallida - Inflorescences are terminal and in upper leaf-axils; peduncles mostly 3-10 cm long. Flowers in small densely cymose clusters subtended by 2 or 3 bracts.


T.spathacea - the flowers, borne down among the leaves, appear as clusters of tiny white flowers nestled between two boat-shaped purplish bracts. The flowers have 3 petals, 6 stamens; the ovary is 3-celled, each cell having one ovule. The fruit is a 3-valved capsule, and the seeds are wrinkled.

The fruit are small capsules, with three chambers. However, this species is not known to produce viable seed in Australia. Black, pitted seeds are produced overseas.


Reproduction and dispersal 

Easily grows from vegative fragments, garden waste