Wandering jew

Wandering jew

Tradescantia zebrina

Common Name:

Wandering jew

Scientific Name:

Tradescantia zebrina

Alternative common names:

Purple wandering jew (English), wandelende Jood (Afrikaans), cockroach grass.


Wandering jew is a trailing perennial grown for its foliage. The fleshy leaves have two silvery stripes and purple undersides. Flowers bloom intermittently throughout the year. It often causes skin irritations in humans, and dogs kept in yards containing wandering jew have developed rashes.

Additional Information

Where does this species come from?


What is its invasive status in South Africa?

NEMBA Category 1b.

Where in South Africa is it a problem?

Eastern Cape.

How does it spread?

It reproduces and spreads from stem and root fragments. Seeds are spread by vehicles, machinery, water and in soil.

Why is it a problem?

It causes skin irritations and invades moist, shaded sites, disturbed forests and stream banks.

What does it look like?

Perennial, evergreen, creeping herb with succulent rooting stems up to 500mm high. It propagates easily from stem fragments.

Leaves: Bluish-green with two broad, silver bands above, purplish beneath, shiny, smooth, ovate to broadly elliptic, 100mm x 30mm, clasping the stems.

Flowers: Pink or violet blue, up to 15mm across, with three coloured petals united at the base and transparent united sepals.

Fruit/seeds: Fruits are dehiscent capsules(split apart).

Does the plant have any uses?

Cultivated as a garden ornamental. It is often grown as a ground cover, mainly for its colourful foliage.

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