Tradescantia pallida “ purpurea” : From Weed to Windowbox
Tradescantia pallida (synonymous with Setcreasea purpurea) is native to Mexico. In tropical and semi-tropical areas, it is commonly grown outdoors as a ground cover. It is commonly called purple heart. ‘Purpurea’ (sometimes sold as ‘Purple Heart’) is a cultivar that features purple foliage which is superior to that of the species. It has served for a number of years as a vigorous and attractive houseplant, but is now being increasingly used in gardens as a ground cover and/or container plant. As a houseplant, T. pallida has been judged exceptionally effective at improving indoor air quality by filtering out volatile organic compounds, a class of common pollutants and respiratory irritants, via a process known as phytoremediation.
Edward Palmer (1829–1911) was the first European to observe and assign a Latin name to the type specimen near Ciudad Victoria, Tamaulipas in 1907. Palmer was a self-taught British botanist and early American archaeologist who collected natural specimens, primarily plants, for the Smithsonian Institution and the U.S. Department of Agriculture, among other institutions. He collected specimens in the southwestern United States, Florida, Mexico (including Baja California), and South America and had about 200 species and two genera (Palmerella and Malperia) of plants named after him.
Palmer’s botanical collections (numbering over 100,000) are mostly pressed and dried and reside at research institutions around the world .The Palmer botanical collection in the U.S. National Herbarium at the Smithsonian Institution remains the largest, containing over 16,000 specimens collected over sixty years. He wrote a report Food Products of the North American Indians (1871) which was one of the pioneering works in ethnobotany. He collected specimens of 24 of the 61 plant species described, with their uses, in the report.
Tradescantia is a genus of 75 species of herbaceous perennial plants in the family Commelinaceae, native to the New World from southern Canada south to northern Argentina including the West Indies. They were introduced into Europe as ornamental plants in the seventeenth century and are now grown as such in many parts of the world. The Commeliin Brothers discovered this family of plants. The Genus name honors John Tradescant (1570-1638) and his son John Tradescant (1608-1662), botanists and successive gardeners to Charles I of England.