Friday, 30 December 2011

Wandering Willy

One of the worst weeds in disturbed bush remnants (and some barely tended gardens I'm a bit familiar with) is wandering willy, or Tradescantia fluminensis.  The genus is found in North and tropical America and is named after John Tradescant, who was gardener to Charles the First.  (First aside: there's a family story that we're descended from Col. John Jones, who married Oliver Cromwell's sister and signed Charles's death warrant, but I've been unable to verify it and for several reasons it seems unlikely.) (Second aside: Philippa Gregory's two historical novels about the Tradescants, Earthly Joys and Virgin Earth, are good reads.)
Tradescantia fluminensis
Wandering willy used to be called wandering Jew in New Zealand, but that's considered offensive, and along with similar common names like wild Irishman and Spaniard has largely disappeared. I'm not sure that puritans, like Cromwell and others of his time, would have approved of wandering willy either.

Tradescantia is flowering well this year.  At least I think it is, but I don't have quantitative data to verify my impression.  Normally I'm aware of occasional flowers, but this year I've noticed a lot of flowers.  It'll be interesting to look for fruit later.  It's not easy to verify such impressions without counting and measuring, and that requires keeping a notebook year after year.

Tradescantia is a serious weed because it's rapidly spread through fragments of stem that can root easily.  Almost any attempt to control it manually is destined to just spread it further (at least that's my excuse for letting it run rampant in my garden).  And of course avoiding tip fees by dumping garden rubbish in gullies and on roadsides just spreads weeds further.

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