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Wandering Jew (plant)

Wandering Jew
Scientific classification
Kingdom: Plantae
Division: Magnoliophyta
Class: Liliopsida
Order: Commelinales
Family: Commelinaceae[?]
Genus: Tradescantia
Species: pallida
Binomial name
Tradescantia pallida

Commonly called the Wandering Jew, the Tradescantia pallida or Setcreasea purpurea is an evergreen perennial plant with elongated pointy leaves and small three-petaled pink flowers with yellow stamens. The leaves are most often purple, though another common variety has green and purple leaves; rarer varieties are green and white or variegated[?]. The plant thrives in sun or light shade in subtropical areas, grows to about a foot tall, and is typically used as an ornamental in gardens and borders. The plant is also used as a ground cover or hanging plant.

The plant propagates easily by cuttings; the stems are visibly segmented and roots will frequently grow from the joints.

The Wandering Jew is native to America and is found from the southern United States through South America; in many areas it is considered an invasive weed.

Green wandering jew with white flowers is a common and invasive weed in Australia.

In New Zealand, the plant Tradescantia fluminensis is known as Wandering Jew. It is an invasive weed in native bush areas and is consided a noxious weed or pest plant that landowners are responsible for eradicating because Tradescantia is distinctive in its ability to colonise low light areas. It can form a dense mat under forest, which smothers low-growing plants and prevents the natural regeneration of taller native species. If left unchecked it can lead to the destruction of native forests.

An example of this plant can be seen in the New Zealand native bush in at least one scene in the movie The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring.

The botanical name is derived from John Tradescant[?], giving Tradescantia for the genus; The Latin designation for the species refers to other features of the plant, such as fluminensis meaning it is from Rio de Janeiro.

The NCBI uses the classification Setcreasea purpurea, a classification which the ITIS rejects as a synonym of Tradescantia pallida. Oddly, some websites list Setcreasea purpurea as a synonym of Setcreasea pallida.


  • ITIS ID 521419 (http://www.itis.usda.gov/servlet/SingleRpt/SingleRpt?search_topic=TSN&search_value=521419)
  • NCBI ID 59015 (http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/Taxonomy/Browser/wwwtax.cgi?mode=Info&id=59015&lvl=3&keep=1&srchmode=1&unlock)
  • Tradescantia fluminensis (http://www.rnzih.org.nz/pages/tradescantiafluminensis.htm)

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