Historically, there was a belief that if a plant had similar qualities to other objects in the natural world, then that plant could be used as a remedy for those objects. Spiderwort was once used as a cure for tarantism, which was believed to have been caused by the bite of a spider (tarantula). When pulled apart, the leaves of Spiderwort break down into fine threads, reminiscent of a spider’s web. ‘Wort’ is the old English name for a ‘plant, root, or herb. Ergo the common name Spiderwort. Other examples of plants named using this reasoning are Liverwort, Spleenwort, and Lungwort. So, Spiderwort is the herb to help with the bite from spider, or tarantism.
The genus was named after the gardener to King Charles I, John Tradescant, Sr.
The Lakota people used the blue of the flowers to paint moccasins. “When touched in the heat of day, the flowers shrivel to a fluid jelly.”
Another name for Spiderwort is ‘Cowslobber’ due to its mucilaginous leaves.
In studies performed at Kyoto University and Brookhaven National Lab, the cells in Spiderwort’s stamen hairs were found to turn pink at a reliable rate when exposed to radiation, making it a reliable indicator of not only the presence, but also the amount of radiation in the environment. Very small doses of radiation detected by using spiderwort.