Tradescantia spathacea
Tradescantia spathacea
Scientific classification edit
Kingdom: Plantae
Clade: Tracheophytes
Clade: Angiosperms
Clade: Monocots
Clade: Commelinids
Order: Commelinales
Family: Commelinaceae
Genus: Tradescantia
T. spathacea
Binomial name
Tradescantia spathacea
    • Ephemerum bicolor Moench
    • Rhoeo discolor (L'Hér.) Hance
    • Rhoeo spathacea (Sw.) Stearn
    • Rhoeo spathacea f. concolor (Baker) Stehlé
    • Rhoeo spathacea f. variegata (Hook.) Stehlé
    • Tradescantia discolor L'Hér.
    • Tradescantia discolor var. concolor Baker
    • Tradescantia discolor var. variegata Hook.
    • Tradescantia versicolor Salisb.

Tradescantia spathacea, the boatlily[2] or Moses-in-the-cradle, is a herb in the Commelinaceae family first described in 1788. It is native to Belize, Guatemala, and southern Mexico (Chiapas, Tabasco, and the Yucatán Peninsula) but widely cultivated as an ornamental and naturalized in parts of Florida, Texas, Hawaii, and various oceanic islands.[3][4][5]


Tradescantia spathacea has fleshy rhizomes and rosettes of waxy lance-shaped leaves. Leaves are dark to metallic green above, with glossy purple underneath. These will reach up to 0.30 m (1 ft) long by 76 mm (3 in) wide. They are very attractive foliage plants that will reach 0.30 m (1 ft) tall. They are hardy in USDA zones 9-12 and are also grown as ornamental houseplants.


Tradescantia spathacea has naturalized in Florida and Louisiana and is listed as a Category II invasive exotic species by the Florida Exotic Pest Plant Council. "This means Invasive exotics that have increased in abundance or frequency but have not yet altered Florida plant communities to the extent shown by Category I species. These species may become ranked Category I if ecological damage is demonstrated."[6]

Ornmental houseplant cultivar of Tradescantia spathacea showing the compound inflorescence inside bracts which lends the name "boat lily"


  1. ^ "Tradescantia spathacea Sw". Plants of the World Online. Board of Trustees of the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew. 2017. Retrieved 27 September 2020.
  2. ^ "Tradescantia spathacea". Natural Resources Conservation Service PLANTS Database. USDA. Retrieved 14 December 2015.
  3. ^ Kew World Checklist of Selected Plant Families
  4. ^ Biota of North America Program 2013 county distribution map
  5. ^ Hunt, D. R. 1994. 257. Commelinaceae. 6: 157–173. In G. Davidse, M. Sousa Sánchez & A.O. Chater (eds.) Flora Mesoamericana. Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México, México, D. F.
  6. ^ Florida Exotic Pest Plant Council (2017). "Florida Exotic Pest Plant Council's 2017 List of Invasive Plant Species" (PDF). Retrieved 14 March 2019.