Tradescantia spathacea Sw.

Etymology Genus After John Tradescant, a 17th century botanist and gardener to King Charles I of England
Species Spathe, referring to the large sheathing bract enclosing the flowers
Family Commelinaceae
Synonyms Tradescantia discolor L'Hér., Tradescantia versicolor Salisb.
Common Names Moses In A Cradle, Boat Lily
Status Exotic: Cultivated Only
Form Herb
Native Distribution Mexico, Central America, Caribbean


A common short but erect herb frequently cultivated in clusters, Tradescantia spathacea can be identified by its radially arranged leaves, of which are dark green on the surface and purple underside. The white flowers are borne on the stem, which is surrounded by large bracts shaped like a boat or cradle; hence its common name of Moses in a Cradle.

Interesting Facts:

In Thai traditional medicine, Moses in the Cradle is used to relieve fever, cough and bronchitis. It was also reported to possess anti-microbial, insecticidal, anti-inflammatory, anti-cancer and anti-fertility activities (Bunyapaphatsara et al., 2000). Compounds for the possible treatment of treatment of type 2 diabetes and obesity was also recorded in a study (Quoc et al., 2015).

Tradescantia spathacea are frequently cultivated in clusters.

Form of the herb.

White flowers "cradled" by large bracts.


Bunyapraphatsara N & Chokechaijareonporn A (2000) Sa-moon-prai: Mai-peun-ban (4), Pra- chachon Printing, Bangkok.

Quo Hung Vo, Phi Hung Nguyen, Bing Tian Zhao, Md Yusof Ali, Jae Soo Choi, Byung Sun Min, Thi Hoai, Nguyen, Mi Hee Woo (2015) Protein tyrosine phosphatase 1B (PTP1B) inhibitory constituents from the aerial parts of Tradescantia spathacea Sw. Fitoterapia, 103: 113-121.

Author: Jake
Posted: 2018-11-08 / Modified: 2018-11-10