The flowers of our native Spiderwort (Tradescantia virginiana x 3), typical of the Dayflower family (Commelinaceae) of which it is a member, open only in the morning, according to The Audubon Society Field Guide to North American Wildflowers: Easterm Region.
The heart-stoppingly beautiful cluster of volunteer Spiderworts (they planted themselves) growing just east of our front porch had apparently not read Audubon's Field Guide, as numerous flowers were open well into the afternoon when we took the photos above and below. But it's true, as the Field Guide says, that the blossoms last only one day. Note bud-in-waiting lower left above and the cluster of buds upper right below.
"John Tradescant the younger succeeded his father as gardener to Charles I and continued the horticultural enterprise in the Tradescant garden [on the Thames] in South Lambeth," says the caption to the above image from Steven A. Spongberg's Reunion of Trees re the son of the 16th- and 17th-century father-and-son team who served as the King's gardeners and transformed the landscape on both sides of the Atlantic through their work as plant explorers extraordinaire. Our exquisite native Spiderwort's botanical name honors the Tradescants.
"The younger Tradescant also opened his home, a veritable museum of curiosities [known as 'The Ark'] to the public," says the Arnold Arboretum's Steven A. Spongberg in his totally awesome A Reunion of Trees: The discovery of exotic plants and their introdution into North American and European Landscapes. (The Ark was later bought by Elias Ashmole, who shipped the rarities to Oxford, where they formed the nucleus of the Ashmolean Museum.) John Tradescant the younger made three trips to Virginia -- in 1637, 1642 and in 1654 -- and returned to South Lambeth with many Virginian plants, including the American Sycamore, which subsequently mated with the European Plane Tree -- possibly in the Tradescants' garden -- to produce one of the worlds all-time greatest street trees, the London Plane (Platanus x. acerifolia). Writes Spongberg re the miracle in the garden:
The two species, previously separated from one another by the expanse of the Atlantic Ocean, were growing together where they might hybridize -- the pollen of the oriental species [P. orientalis] functioning to fertilize the ovules concealed within the flowers of its occidental cousin [P. occidentalis], or vice versa. The resulting offspring proved unlike any tree then in existence, a tree of remarkably strong and vigorous growth and of easy propagation by cuttings or by layering.
You'll see mature specimens growing in allee fashion along the sides of many a 19th-century thoroughfare -- such as Memorial Drive in Cambridge, MA -- both here and abroad.
In contrast to the Audubon Field Guide's theory, Edwin Rollin Spencer in All About Weeds asserts that "The name spiderwort means spider plant and refers to the hairy stamens which look like the hairy legs of a spider" (see top photo). It all goes to show that whether you're talkin' old-fashioned dead-tree books or the internet, the more sources the better.