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Wandering Trad, or Tradescantia, is a common and widespread weed of gardens, bush, and creek banks. It grows into a dense mat, which smothers the ground and outcompetes native plants. It's native to South America and was originally introduced as an ornamental plant. Unfortunately, it quickly escaped and invaded local ecosystems. Wandering Trad can be mostly found growing in shady areas with moist, nutrient-rich soils. It doesn't tolerate frost or drought conditions.
Wandering Trad is a semi-succulent, low-growing perennial that grows to 0.3m tall and up to 2m across. The soft, fleshy stems are heavily branched with prominent nodes (the bump along the stems where leaves emerge). Leaves are smooth, glossy green and oval-shaped to a point. They're known to cause skin allergies in humans and dogs. Clusters of small, white, three-petalled flowers can appear near the ends of branches from spring to summer. Fruit and seeds don't form in NZ but Wandering Trad doesn't need to rely on seeds for dispersal.
Trad spreads vegetatively. Each node along the stem develops roots where it contacts the ground – allowing it to quickly grow into a dense ground cover. It can be a challenge to control manually, as it happily regrows from the tiniest stem fragments. The most common reason for Wandering Trad spreading in suburban settings is through dumped garden waste and machinery, like lawn mowers. In bushland and along watercourses, small pieces of stem can break off and spread via the flow of water.
While Wandering Trad is a serious environmental pest, there are cultivars like Tradescantia ‘Tricolor’ and Tradescantia ‘Albovittata’ that are popular house plants. Tradescantia zebrina and Tradescantia pallida are also used for indoor display. They all have potential to invade the garden, so please ensure they are well contained in pots. Don't dispose of any cuttings or browning plant material in the garden or compost.
For small infestations, it's possible to manually remove the weed from the ground. Make sure all parts of the plant are removed, or it will reshoot.
If a spray is required, use Yates Zero Tough. Apply to actively growing plants, spraying all foliage until just wet. Repeat treatments may be required.