The bed of Virginia spiderwort in the monocot oval of the Systematics Beds is brimming with the clustered terminal cymes of royal blue, three petalled flowers. Where the shallow-cupped petals meet is a fine fluffy tulle of stamen hairs that support the six upright gold tipped fertile stamens. The stamen hairs have been noted as one of the few naturally-occurring 'bioassays' of ionizing radiation - they turn pink on exposure.
The name was proposed by Linnaeus to honour, most likely, John Tradescant senior, whose South Lambeth 'Ark' has been called the first museum, and which was brimful of curiosities from the world over. Tradescant collected plants and seeds energetically himself, but also cultivated a network of collectors in North America, and it is likely that one of these first sent the spiderwort back to Tradescant in the early 17th century perhaps from its endemic Virginia, as implied by the specific epithet.
The common name arises from the silk like strands of exudate that form when the stems are cut or damaged.