Species Details

Details of Boatlily will be displayed below


Common Name: Boat lily, Oyster plant, Moses-in-the-boat
Scientific Name: Tradescantia spathacea
Local Name: Raiykandholhu
Dhivehi Name: ރަތްކަންދޮޅު
Plantae  (Kingdom)
Magnoliophyta  (Plylum)
Liliopsida  (Class)
Commelinales  (Order)
Commelinaceae  (Family)
Unknown   (Genus)

Boatlily's description

Perennial herbs with short, stout stem nearly hidden by overlapping leaf bases which forms clumps by off shoots from fl eshy rootstock. Leaves spreading, erect, closely overlapping in spiral pattern. Blades broadly linear, sharp-tipped, waxy, stiff , fl eshy, 15-30×2.5-8 cm; upper surfaces dark green or green with pale yellow stripes; lower surfaces usually purple. Flowers small, white, clustered within a folded bract, 3-4 cm long, short stalked from leaf axils. Petals 3; stamens 6 with hairy stalks. Fruit a 2-seeded capsule, in clusters within the bract.

Boatlily's facts


  • Agroforestry


  • Botanical garden/zoo

Medicinal, pharmaceutical

  • Source of medicine/pharmaceutical
  • Traditional/folklore


  • Potted plant
  • Propagation material
  • Seed trade

Boatlily's Behavior & Ecology

T. spathacea is commonly used as an ornamental plant and has been planted in gardens and yards from where it has escaped. Currently, it can be found growing in the understory of coastal forests, shrublands, pinelands, hammocks, secondary forests, cultivated grounds, and disturbed areas from sea level to low elevations. In these habitats, T. spathacea grows forming a dense ground cover (Richard and Ramey, 2007; Langeland and Burks, 2008, ISSG, 2012). On islands in the Pacific, the species often grows on stone or coral walls and on rocky cliffs (Smith, 1979; PIER, 2012).

Prefers well-drained sites and will grow well on rocks (PIER, 2002). Although it likes soil with substantial organic matter, oysterplant will grow in sand or even coral rock (Floridata.com). It is drought resistant, Likes shade and will invade the forest understory (PIER, 2002).

Boatlily's Reproduction

T. spathacea can reproduce by seeds, cuttings, and discarded plants (PIER, 2002). Broken pieces will resprout easily (Floridata.com). Tradescantia spathacea flowers all year round, and is pollinated by insects, or self-pollinated (Center for Aquatic and Invasive Plants, 2000).

Boatlily's Conservation

T. spathacea is a succulent herb commercially grown for bedding, rock gardens, and tropical effects, but classified in the Global Compendium of Weeds as an invasive species and an environmental weed (Randall, 2012). This species has escaped into natural areas from gardens and yards where it has been planted as an ornamental (ISSG, 2012; PIER, 2012). T. spathacea spreads by seeds, which are dispersed by wind and it also grows from cuttings and plant fragments (Langeland and Burks, 2008). Once established, it is able to grow forming dense groundcover on the forest floor preventing the germination and establishment of native plants (ISSG, 2012). T. spathacea is listed as an invasive species Category II in Florida (Florida Exotic Pest Plant Council, 2011), and it is also considered invasive in Cuba, Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands (González-Torres et al., 2012; Acevedo-Rodríguez and Strong, 2012) and the Pacific Islands.

Tradescantia spathacea is a beautiful succulent that has been introduced to south Asia and many Pacific Islands from its native range in the tropical Americas. Although it has not yet been declared a pest, in many areas it has become a very invasive weed, especially in Florida where it invades and disrupts native plant communities. Tradescantia spathacea creates a dense groundcover on the forest floor which prevents native plants from germinating. Tradescantia spathacea has diverse reproductive methods and grows in areas other plants cannot. These two characteristics make this plant a potential danger to many areas. Monitoring is recommended wherever this species is present.

Boatlily's Relationship with Humans

T. spathacea was introduced into the West Indies as an ornamental and houseplant probably during the nineteenth century. By 1883, D. Bello reported this species for the island of Puerto Rico (Bello, 1883). Later, Ignaz Urban in his Symbolae Antillanae (IV: 147, 1903-1911) reported this species growing in gardens and forests for Puerto Rico, Cuba, Hispaniola, St. Thomas, St. Croix, Guadeloupe, Martinique, and St. Vincent (Urban, 1905). In 1920, T. spathacea is reported for the Bahamas by N.L. Britton and C.F. Millspaugh (Britton and Milsspaugh, 1920). T. spathacea was also introduced in Florida as an ornamental and by 1933 it was reported as naturalized in cultivated grounds and pinelands in peninsular Florida by J.K. Small (Small, 1933). Currently, this species is included in the Florida List of Invasive species as an invasive plant Category II, which are invasive plants that have increased in abundance or frequency but have not yet altered natural plant communities (Florida Exotic Pest Plant Council, 2011). T. spathacea was also introduced in the nineteenth century on islands in the Pacific, including Hawaii, Guam, Fiji, French Polynesia, Cook Islands, Mariana Islands, and Micronesia (see distribution table for details; PIER, 2012). By 1924, it was reported as “naturalized” on American Samoa (Setchell, 1924) and later it was reported as “common and naturalized” on Tonga (Yuncker, 1959), Niue (Sykes, 1970), and Fiji (Smith, 1979). Currently, T. spathacea is considered an invasive species that is threatening ecosystems on the Pacific islands and regular monitoring is recommended wherever it is present (PIER, 2012).