Tradescantia ozarkana - E.S. Anderson & Woods.
Ozark Spiderwort
Other Common Names: Ozark spiderwort
Taxonomic Status: Accepted
Related ITIS Name(s): Tradescantia ozarkana E.S. Anderson & Woods. (TSN 39170)
Unique Identifier: ELEMENT_GLOBAL.2.136941
Element Code: PMCOM0B0H0
Informal Taxonomy: Plants, Vascular - Flowering Plants - Spiderwort Family
Image 11976

© Arkansas Natural Heritage Commission

Kingdom Phylum Class Order Family Genus
Plantae Anthophyta Monocotyledoneae Commelinales Commelinaceae Tradescantia
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Concept Reference
Concept Reference: Kartesz, J.T. 1994. A synonymized checklist of the vascular flora of the United States, Canada, and Greenland. 2nd edition. 2 vols. Timber Press, Portland, OR.
Concept Reference Code: B94KAR01HQUS
Name Used in Concept Reference: Tradescantia ozarkana
Conservation Status

NatureServe Status

Global Status: G3
Global Status Last Reviewed: 01Nov1997
Global Status Last Changed: 08Aug1996
Rounded Global Status: G3 - Vulnerable
Reasons: Endemic to the Ozark Mountains of Missouri, Oklahoma, and Arkansas and the Ouachita Mountains of western Arkansas and southeastern Oklahoma. There are fifteen extant populations in Missouri, more than that in Arkansas, and a few in Oklahoma. The species is considered relatively secure despite some documented declines due to construction of dams/impoundments.
Nation: United States
National Status: N3

U.S. & Canada State/Province Status
Due to latency between updates made in state, provincial or other NatureServe Network databases and when they appear on NatureServe Explorer, for state or provincial information you may wish to contact the data steward in your jurisdiction to obtain the most current data. Please refer to our Distribution Data Sources to find contact information for your jurisdiction.
United States Arkansas (S3), Missouri (S2), Oklahoma (S2)

Other Statuses

NatureServe Global Conservation Status Factors

Range Extent Comments: Tradescantia ozarkana is presently restricted to the Ozark and Ouachita Mountains of the Interior Highlands of southwestern Missouri, northwestern Arkansas, and extreme eastern Oklahoma.

Number of Occurrences: 21 - 80
Number of Occurrences Comments: A total of seventy-four element occurrences are known from across the range of T. ozarkana: thirty in Arkansas, twenty-eight in Missouri (fifteen post-1980 occurrences), and sixteen in Oklahoma (ten post-1980 occurrences) (these numbers might be out of date).

Population Size Comments: Approximately 14,000 individuals are currently known for Tradescantia ozarkana from state Heritage Program records and Watson (1989, 1992, 1993), but additional census and inventory may add significantly to this number. Populations range in size from relatively small with only a few individuals to sites containing several thousand. Missouri populations exceed 7000 individuals (MO NHD 1994), Arkansas populations exceed 4000 individuals (AR NHC 1992), and Oklahoma populations are estimated at 3000 individuals (Watsion 1989, Watson 1992, Watson 1993).

Overall Threat Impact Comments: No immediate rangewide threats such as habitat conversion are presently known. Numerous local potential threats are reported however, including housing developments, roadway construction and maintenance, and herbicide use (MO NHD 1994, Watson 1989). Other potential local threats that are of particular danger to T. ozarkana stem from destruction of habitat through forest clearing and livestock pasturing. Succession of habitat may also threaten pouplations by shading out individuals through increased cover from tree canopies (Smith 1992).

Short-term Trend: Decline of <30% to relatively stable
Short-term Trend Comments: Trends are not well-documented, but Tradescantia ozarkana may have suffered a substantial loss due to a series of impoundments on the White River in Missouri. These reservoirs flooded several populations, and Steyermark (1963) estimated that the erection of these dams has "destroyed millions of plants." In Oklahoma, Watson (1989) reported that T. ozarkana has not declined in the Ozark Mountains within the last 50 years but has declined by 71 percent in the Ouachita Mountains, although this percentage is based on a low sample size (two out of seven populations confirmed). A number of historical populations have not been relocated throughout the range of T. ozarkana suggesting possible extirpation by natural or other causes. While this supports a downward trend, at those sites where T. ozarkana is known to occur population numbers are often in the hundreds and occasionally in the thousands of individuals, suggesting a taxon capable of sustaining itself when under natural conditions.

Intrinsic Vulnerability Comments: Tradescantia ozarkana is reported from various light and disturbance regimes and appears to tolerate at least some habitat perturbation.

Environmental Specificity Comments: Tradescantia ozarkana is considered a rare species with a restricted geographic range.

Other NatureServe Conservation Status Information

Global Range: Tradescantia ozarkana is presently restricted to the Ozark and Ouachita Mountains of the Interior Highlands of southwestern Missouri, northwestern Arkansas, and extreme eastern Oklahoma.

U.S. States and Canadian Provinces

Due to latency between updates made in state, provincial or other NatureServe Network databases and when they appear on NatureServe Explorer, for state or provincial information you may wish to contact the data steward in your jurisdiction to obtain the most current data. Please refer to our Distribution Data Sources to find contact information for your jurisdiction.
Color legend for Distribution Map

U.S. & Canada State/Province Distribution
United States AR, MO, OK

Range Map
No map available.

U.S. Distribution by County Help
State County Name (FIPS Code)
AR Baxter (05005), Benton (05007), Carroll (05015), Cleburne (05023), Crawford (05033), Franklin (05047), Johnson (05071), Logan (05083)*, Madison (05087), Marion (05089), Newton (05101), Polk (05113), Searcy (05129), Van Buren (05141)
MO Barry (29009), Christian (29043)*, Douglas (29067), Howell (29091), Ozark (29153), Stone (29209), Taney (29213)
OK Atoka (40005), Cherokee (40021), Choctaw (40023), Delaware (40041), Le Flore (40079), Mayes (40097), McCurtain (40089), Pushmataha (40127), Wagoner (40145)
* Extirpated/possibly extirpated
U.S. Distribution by Watershed Help
Watershed Region Help Watershed Name (Watershed Code)
11 Beaver Reservoir (11010001)+, James (11010002)+*, Bull Shoals Lake (11010003)+, Middle White (11010004)+, Buffalo (11010005)+, North Fork White (11010006)+, Spring (11010010)+, Little Red (11010014)+, Lower Neosho (11070209)+, Illinois (11110103)+, Robert S. Kerr Reservoir (11110104)+, Poteau (11110105)+, Frog-Mulberry (11110201)+, Dardanelle Reservoir (11110202)+, Petit Jean (11110204)+*, Muddy Boggy (11140103)+, Kiamichi (11140105)+, Upper Little (11140107)+, Mountain Fork (11140108)+, Lower Little (11140109)+
+ Natural heritage record(s) exist for this watershed
* Extirpated/possibly extirpated
Ecology & Life History
Basic Description: A perennial herb with erect stems, 1.5-5 dm tall, and linear leaves. Flowers (late April-May) are showy, with 3 petals that range from pale lavender-pink to white.
Technical Description: Roots relatively short and fleshy, not persistently pilose; stems erect or ascending, usually rather stout, straight or very slightly flexuose, 1.5-5.0 dm tall, glabrous to softly pilose; nodes 4-7; internodes 2-8 cm long; leaves delicately subsucculent, light green, subglaucous, the anastomosing secondary veins clearly manifest in desiccation, the blade ovate- to linear-lanceolate, acuminate, abruptly constricted into the sheath, 10-28 cm long, 1.5-5.0 cm broad, glabrous, or the margin sparsely and minutely ciliolate, stomata predominantly restricted to the lower surface, the sheath 0.5-3.0 cm long, about 0.6-3.0 cm broad; cymes umbellate, several-flowered; bracts foliaceous, 6-15 cm long, 1.5-4.0 cm broad, spreading to slightly ascending; pedicels 2.0-3.2 cm long, somewhat accrescent after maturity, pale green, more or less densely glandular-pilosulose; sepals elliptic, acuminate, 0.9-1.0 cm long, very slightly foliaceous, not inflated, more or less densely glandular-pilosulose; petals broadly ovate, 1.2- 1.6 cm long, pale rose-lavender to white; filaments abundantly pilose, connective broadly trapezoid; ovary ovoid, glandular-puberulent; capsules pandurate-obovoid, 0.6-0.8 cm long; seeds 0.3-0.4 cm long, roughly compressed-oblongoid, the funicular scar about as long as the seed (Anderson and Woodson 1935).
Diagnostic Characteristics: Anderson and Woodson (1935) reported that Tradescantia ozarkana "is obviously most closely related to T. edwardsiana of south-central Texas" and that "the two species evidently differ almost entirely in their foliage." However, since the ranges of these two taxa do not overlap, a problem of identification should not exist.

Steyermark (1963) described a second woodland species of Tradescantia from the Ozark region, T. longipes, whose range overlaps that of T. ozarkana. These two taxa are differentiated by the larger leaf blades (15-50 mm.) in T. ozarkana which are more or less glaucous and hairless except at the margins.

A combination of the following characteristics from Anderson and Woodson (1935) should be diagnostic in distinguishing T. ozarkana from all other species of spiderworts in North America: erect or ascending stems, very conspicuous bracts, at least the upper leaf blades broader than the sheath, sepals 0.4-1.0 cm long, leaf blades directly constricted into the sheath and capsules 0.6-0.8 cm long. Watson (1992) reported pale-green leaves with crinkled edges as a special identifying feature for Tradescantia ozarkana.

Ecology Comments: Very little ecological information is available for this taxon. Flowering occurs in April and May and populations generally range in size from 10-20 individuals to several thousand (Watson 1989, AR NHC 1992, MO NHD 1994). This suggests that under optimum conditions, the species may be able to build up large population numbers at a given site.

Steyermark (1963) reported that T. ozarkana hybridizes with T. ernestiana in Barry County at Eagle Rock near Roaring River State Park and with T. ohiensis in Ozark and Taney Counties in Missouri. "The latter hybrid is a broad-leaved, glaucous plant with often glabrous or only hairy-tipped sepals."

Habitat Comments: Tradescantia ozarkana occurs in steep, rocky, wooded slopes and ravines, bases and mesic lower slopes of bluffs as well as dry to moist woodland ledges (Steyermark 1963, AR NHC 1992 and MO NHD 1994). Most often associated with a limestone/dolomite substrate, T. ozarkana has also been reported from sandstone by Watson (1989). The taxon is recorded between 500 and 2550+ feet in elevation. Slope aspect does not appear to be a limiting habitat factor.

Tradescantia ozarkana does not appear to be highly habitat- specific (Foti 1994). Throughout its range, it has been recorded from rich, diverse, mainly deciduous woodlands. Herbaceous associates are not well-known. At a Newton County, Arkansas site, they include Adiatum pedatum, Arisaema atrorubens, Cystopteris fragilis, Impatiens capensis, Trillium viridescens, and Uvularia grandiflora (AR NHC 1992). Asclepias quadrifolia, Carex latebracteata, Dodecatheon meadia, Hedyotis ouachitana, Silene virginica, and Tradescantia ohiensis are associates at a McCurtain County, Oklahoma site (Watson 1989).

Economic Attributes Not yet assessed
Management Summary
Stewardship Overview: Maintenance of habitat may be the most important stewardship activity involving T. ozarkana. This is accomplished through conservation of the forest canopy under which T. ozarkana occurs. Threats which face populations of T. ozarkana include habitat destruction for development, roadway construction, timber harvest, and livestock pasturing, as well as succession. While more information is needed before management programs are implemented, Foti (1994) stated that limited timbering may be beneficial or adverse depending on the amount taken, and in general if left alone in its forest habitat, windthrow and mortality may be adequate in sustaining populations of T. ozarkana.

More extensive inventories for this taxon need to be undertaken on both public and private lands which is highly likely to yield additional populations of T. ozarkana. In addition, more accurate census information is needed at many sites throughout the range of T. ozarkana to act as a foundation for further research. Monitoring of selected populations throughout the range of the taxon may be useful, and when combined with basic research into the biological and ecological requirements of T. ozarkana, detailed management strategies may emerge.

Restoration Potential: Although little information is currently available, the restoration potential of T. ozarkana may likely be high. Many of the known populations contain hundreds to thousands of individuals. This information coupled with the observation that the taxon seems to tolerate a wide array of land-use practices (Smith 1992) suggests that a moderate restoration/recovery potential may exist if the necessary habitat factors are identified. In addition, Steyermark (1963) stated that "the plant does well in wildflower gardens when provided with rich, well-drained, shaded soils," lending more support to this belief.
Preserve Selection & Design Considerations: Preserve designs should include sufficient habitat to sustain viable populations of T. ozarkana. It may be necessary to include a natural mosaic of different-aged growth within the boundary of the preserve to enhance reproduction and long-term survival of this taxon within the design. A surrounding area of good or marginal habitat should be included in preserve designs to provide a buffer for added protection.
Management Requirements: Smith (1992) stated that thinning of the canopy may be beneficial for this species as "dense shading seems to be associated with smaller populations." Foti (1994) stated there may be circumstances under a full canopy such as a maturing second- growth woodland where limited canopy removal may be of use, but in general if left alone in its forest habitat, windthrow and mortality may be adequate to sustain populations.

The results of prescribed fire on populations of T. ozarkana are not known, although Foti (1994) stated that T. ozarkana does not appear to require fire in its natural habitat and that fire may be beneficial or adverse depending on the frequency and seasonality.

Monitoring Requirements: Periodic surveys at known sites to estimate or obtain counts of populations of individuals and gauge potential threats may be sufficient in monitoring T. ozarkana. Transect or quadrat sampling may be of use in quantitative monitoring of populations. Monitoring of individuals within a population and resulting recruitment rates in response to light levels may be useful.

Management Programs: No known management programs are under way at this time.
Monitoring Programs: Botanists at the Oklahoma Natural Heritage Inventory are currently monitoring populations of T. ozarkana. Of 10 known sites, total and estimated counts were made at 5 of these sites (Watson 1993). Contact Linda Watson, Oklahoma Natural Heritage Inventory, Oklahoma Biological Survey, 2001 Priestly Ave., Bldg. 605, Norman, OK 73019. Telephone: (405) 325-5357.

Most of the extant sites in Missouri were last surveyed during 1984-89 to estimate numbers of plants and identify threats (Smith 1992). Contact Tim Smith, Missouri Natural Heritage Database, Missouri Department of Conservation, P.O. Box 180, Jefferson City, MO 65109. Telephone: (314) 751-4115.

Management Research Programs: No known management research programs are under way at this time.
Management Research Needs: The highest priority research need appears to be understanding the ecological needs of T. ozarkana in regard to forest canopy percentages and optimum light levels necessary for long-term survival of the taxon. An investigation of the effect of canopy thinning and prescribed fire on optimum light levels and competing herbaceous and subcanopy vegetation may also be useful.
Population/Occurrence Delineation Not yet assessed
Population/Occurrence Viability
U.S. Invasive Species Impact Rank (I-Rank) Not yet assessed
NatureServe Conservation Status Factors Edition Date: 31Mar1994
NatureServe Conservation Status Factors Author: T. Smith/K. Maybury (1996); Watson, William C. (1994).
Management Information Edition Date: 31Mar1994
Management Information Edition Author: WATSON, WILLIAM C.
Management Information Acknowledgments: We are indebted to all the botanists, ecologists, information managers, and others who took the time to provide the information necessary for the preparation of this and many other Element Stewardship Abstracts. A special thanks goes to Michael Penskar and David Schuen for preliminary research.

Botanical data developed by NatureServe and its network of natural heritage programs (see Local Programs), The North Carolina Botanical Garden, and other contributors and cooperators (see Sources).

  • Anderson, E. and R.E. Woodson. 1935. The species of Tradescantia indigenous to the United States. J. Arnold Arbor. 9: 1-132.

  • Gleason, H.A. 1952. The new Britton and Brown illustrated flora of the northeastern United States and adjacent Canada. 3 volumes. Hafner Press, New York. 1732 pp.

  • Kartesz, J.T. 1994. A synonymized checklist of the vascular flora of the United States, Canada, and Greenland. 2nd edition. 2 vols. Timber Press, Portland, OR.

  • Steyermark, J.A. 1963. Flora of Missouri. Iowa State Univ. Press, Ames. 1728 pp.

  • Watson, L.E. 1989. Status survey of Tradescantia ozarkana, Ozark spiderwort, in Oklahoma. Oklahoma Natural Heritage Inventory, Norman. 8 pp.

  • Watson, L.E. 1992. Plant candidate inventory of McCurtain County Wilderness Area. Unpublished report submitted to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. Tulsa, Oklahoma.

  • Watson, L.E. 1993. Monitoring of plant candidate species in Oklahoma, year two. Unpublished report submitted to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. Tulsa, Oklahoma.

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