Wandering Jew

The Wandering Jew, known as Tradescantia or Wandering Willie, is a fast-spreading ground cover weed that rapidly invades and overpowers other plants by depriving them of sunlight. This invasive weed has its origins in South America.


This particular weed is a perennial ground cover plant characterized by trailing, soft, and hairless stems. These succulent and flexible stems root at nodes upon contact with the soil. The leaves of this plant are oval-shaped with pointed tips, exhibiting a dark green or occasionally black hue. They possess a glossy and smooth texture.

Ecological Requirements

The fluminensis weed thrives in regions with higher levels of rainfall, typically exceeding 1000 mm annually, and there have been records of up to 1800 mm. However, its capacity to withstand even greater amounts of rainfall likely exceeds this upper limit. The average yearly temperatures in areas where it grows range from 15 to 21°C. This plant is vulnerable to frost, with damage estimated to occur at temperatures between -4.0 and -4.4°C, causing around 50% harm. Surprisingly, it can endure and persist in areas with deep shade, where as little as 1.4% of full light is available. It exhibits adaptability to shallow soils of various types, although it tends to favor slightly acidic soil conditions. Notably, it has been observed growing at altitudes as high as 3300 m.

Adaptation of the Weed to Various Environmental Conditions

  • Demonstrates a high reproductive capacity, enhancing its chances of survival.
  • Possesses propagules capable of maintaining viability for extended periods, exceeding one year.
  • Exhibits a remarkable local mobility, enabling it to spread rapidly within its vicinity.
  • Displays invasiveness beyond its original habitat or native range.
  • Shows tolerance or even benefits from cultivation, browsing pressure, mutilation, and fire.

Distribution of the Weed

In earlier times, well before the commercialization of plant cultivation, every homemaker possessed the knowledge of growing Wandering Jew houseplants. Gardeners would generously exchange cuttings from their Wandering Jew houseplant (Tradescantia pallid) with neighbors and friends, leading to the widespread dispersal of this plant akin to the journey of the historical Wandering Jew.

The benghalensis variation of this plant is considered a weed primarily found in tropical and subtropical regions. It has a wide distribution across West Africa, East Africa, Central, Southern, and Southeast Asia, reaching as far as Japan, the Philippines, and Australia. While it is known to be a significant and troublesome weed in most arable crops within Eastern and Southern African countries, its occurrence in the Americas is sporadic.

Disadvantages of Wandering Jew

  • Acts as an alternate host for pests such as leafminers and root knot nematodes, including Meloidogyne incognita.
  • Serves as an alternate host for diseases like groundnut rosette virus, groundnut mosaic virus, and leaf blight of rice.
  • Competes with arable and plantation crops for essential nutrients.
  • Certain species within the Tradescantia genus can cause allergic reactions in pets, particularly cats and dogs, leading to symptoms like red and itchy skin.
  • In cases of high biomass, T. Flumensis accelerates litter decomposition and disrupts nutrient cycling.
  • Impedes the regeneration of native forests, causing some forests to have stunted growth.
  • Invades forests, resulting in the destruction of ecosystems, impacting tourism, and affecting invertebrate populations.

Means of Movement/Dispersal of Wandering Jew

  • Facilitated by human activities such as gardening practices and the disposal of garden waste.
  • Fragments of the plant can be transported by livestock through attachment to their hooves.
  • Fragment dispersal can occur through road machinery activities.
  • Water bodies can carry plant fragments, aiding their transportation to various locations.
  • Dissemination through wind is another mechanism by which Wandering Jew can spread.

Uses of Wandering Jew

  • T. virginiana is employed in the treatment of various ailments such as stomach ache and cancer. Similarly, C. benghalensis has been utilized by several African tribes for alleviating conditions like sore throat, eye ailments, and burns.
  • During periods of famine, Wandering Jew can serve as a food source.
  • It proves to be an effective biomass in managing ambient radiation levels.
  • Wandering Jew is commonly used as houseplants for decorative purposes, enhancing the aesthetic appeal of indoor spaces.
  • Its usage extends to controlling soil erosion, where it plays a role in stabilizing and protecting soil from erosion processes.
  • As fodder, Wandering Jew finds application in feeding pigs and rabbits, providing a source of nutrition for these animals.

Host Plants/Plants Affected

  • Cereals such as maize, rice, groundnuts, cowpea, and beans are susceptible to Wandering Jew infestation.
  • Plants from the Solanaceae family, including tomatoes and capsicum, can be affected by this weed.
  • Tree crops like citrus, banana, coffee, and tea are at risk of Wandering Jew invasion.
  • Sugarcane plants are vulnerable to infestation by Wandering Jew.
  • Pineapple plants can be affected by Wandering Jew weed.
  • Cotton crops can also be impacted by the presence of Wandering Jew.

Greenlife Solutions to Wandering Jew Challenges

For non-cropped land, the application of Clampdown at a rate of 200ml/20l using clean water can effectively control Wandering Jew. It can also be used to weed sugarcane, coffee, bananas, and citrus crops.

To control Wandering Jew in maize, Agromine can be used during the first weeding at a rate of 120ml/20l. Agromine is a selective herbicide that is also effective in controlling Wandering Jew in rice, using the same application rate.

Hurricane, a selective herbicide, can be applied during the second weeding in maize at a rate of 150ml/20l to control Wandering Jew.

Hotline, another selective herbicide, can be used to control Wandering Jew in common beans, cowpeas, and carrots. In common beans, it is applied as a pre-emergent herbicide, while in carrots, it can be used as a post-emergence selective herbicide. It is important to apply Hotline when the ground is wet.

For controlling Wandering Jew in onions, Greenlife offers a selective herbicide called Commander. It is applied two weeks after transplanting when the onion foliage has reached 2 leaves. In carrots, Commander is applied as a post-emergent selective herbicide at a rate of 15ml/20l.

Digester Super is a selective herbicide specifically designed for controlling annual and perennial grass weeds in wheat. It has both contact and systemic action, primarily absorbed through the leaves and translocated to the roots or rhizomes. It should be applied as a post-emergent herbicide after the weeds have emerged. The recommended application rate is 50ml/20l.

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