The Q&A Archives: Mystery Flowers

Question: I'm trying to determine what type of flowers I currently have growing in my flower beds. They are purple flowers on green stalks. The structure of the green stalks is similar to that of a daffodil, kind of grass-like. They are obviously a perennial, because I didn't plant them & I've lived there almost two years. The flowers themselves have three petals each. I'm thinking that they may be a bulb, because the stalks are fairly thick at the base. I know they aren't Irises, because I have them in my garden and they don't look at all similar. One last thing...they may close up at night. I went to show them to a friend last evening around sunset, and there were no blooms. However, there were some earlier that day. There were also no dead flowers, so I think they may have closed. I've searched your catalog & others, but I can't seem to find anything that looks similar. Hope you can help!

Answer: Of course I can't say for sure, but it sounds like spiderwort (Tradescantia virginiana). The plant description (from the Audubon Society Field Guide to North American Wildflowers) says that "the flowers open only in the morning; the petals then wilt and turn to a jelly-like liquid". They range from Connecticut south to NW Georgia, west to Missouri, north to Wisconsin. Fascinating, isn't it?

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