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Wednesday, June 18, 2008
By LINDA INOKI
The other morning I was delighted to find two dewy purple flowers blooming side-by-side in my garden: one was a morning glory, the first of this summer, and the other was a Tradescantia, or spiderwort. Like the morning glory, the flowers of the Tradescantia only last for a day, but there always seem to be lots of new buds waiting to take their place. Tradescantia is named after two English botanists, John Tradescant the Elder (c. 1570-1638) and his son, John Tradescant the Younger (1608-62). The son made several expeditions to the New World and introduced many American trees and plants to Europe, including Tradescantia virginia. Spiderworts are easy to grow, and they thrive in Japanese gardens: you may even see them flowering beside busy railroad tracks in Tokyo. In Japanese, murasaki-tsuyukusa means "purple rainy-season flower," or "purple dew flower," because it is a showy cousin of the local tsyukusa, or Asian day-flower, (Commelina communis), which is native to Japan. The Japanese name may also refer to the dye that can be obtained from the American plant. Traditionally, this is used to paint patterns on fabric before it is tie-dyed. Out of interest, I dipped my wetted brush into a faded flower bud when I was painting the picture above, and then used the "ink" to paint some of the petals.