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Family Commelinaceae

Purple heart
Setcreasea pallida Rose

Scientific names Common names
Setcreasea pallida Rose Purple heart (Engl.)
Tradescantia pallida (Rose) D. R. Hunt Purple jew (Engl.)
Setcreasea purpurea Boom Purple secretia (Emgl.)
  Purple queen (Engl.)
  Wandering jew (Engl.)
Wandering jew is a shared common name of (1) Zebrina pendula and (2) Setcreasea pallida and (3) Tradescantia albiflora.

Purple heart is a low-growing succulent evergreen perennial herb with erect or sprawling stems. Leaves are elongated and pointed, glaucous green to violet-purple. Flowers are small, three-petaled, white, pink or purple.

- Ornamental plant in gardens and borders.
- Used as ground cover or hanging plant.
- Propagated by cuttings.

- Rare mild skin irritation from handling the plant. Tradescantia species generally regarded as nontoxic. (7)

- No reported folkloric medicinal use in the Philippines.
- Taiwanese compilation reports it to improve circulation and as anti-inflammatory and antitoxic. (6)
VOC Removal: As a house plant, considered effective at improving air quality by filtering out VOCs (volatile organic compounds) – pollutants and respiratory irritants– through phytoremediation. One study rated it superior for its ability in removing 4 out of 5 VOCs. (See below)
Biowall: One of the component plants in the biowall that purifies and cleans the air. (3)

Anthocyanins Pigments / Food Colorant: T pallida contained two major anthocyanins. The pigments may have potential as food colorants. (2)
Phytoremediation / Indoor Air-Purifying Plant: VOQs (volatile organic compounds including benzene, xylene, hexane, heptane, octane, decane, trichlorethylene (TCE) and methylene chloride) have been known to cause or aggravate various illnesses when people are exposed to them in indoor spaces. Studies have shown the ability of some plants to remove VOCs, a process called "phytoremediation." Of 28 species tested with 5 volatile indoor pollutants - benzene and toluene (plastics, cleaning solutions, environmental tobacco smoke), octane (paints, adhesive materials), TCE (tap water, cleaning agents, insecticides), and alpha-pinene (synthetic pains and odorants) - Hemigraphis alternata, Hedera helix, Hoya carnosa, Asparagus densiflorus had the highest removal rates for all the VOCs introduced. Tradescantia pallida (purple heart) was given a superior rating for its ability to remove four of the five VOCs. (4) (5)
Environmental Pollution Biomonitoring: Study showed the viability of using Tradescantia pallida in environmental pollution biomonitoring. (8)
Sensitivity to Genotoxicity Induced by Ozone: Study evaluated the sensitivity of T. pallida to genotoxicity induced by ozone by MCN (micronucleus) bioassay, to verify whether the intensity of genotoxic responses in inflorescences and the conditions that conditions that affect its modulation. (9)

Can plants control indoor air pollution? Recent reports in the media and promotions by the decorative houseplant industry characterize plants as "nature's clean air machine", claiming that National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) research shows plants remove indoor air pollutants. While it is true that plants remove carbon dioxide from the air, and the ability of plants to remove certain other pollutants from water is the basis for some pollution control methods, the ability of plants to control indoor air pollution is less well established. Most research to date used small chambers without any air exchange which makes extrapolation to real world environments extremely uncertain. The only available study of the use of plants to control indoor air pollutants in an actual building could not determine any benefit from the use of plants69. As a practical means of pollution control, the plant removal mechanisms appear to be inconsequential compared to common ventilation and air exchange rates. In other words, the ability of plants to actually improve indoor air quality is limited in comparison with provision of adequate ventilation.
     While decorative foliage plants may be aesthetically pleasing, it should be noted that over damp planter soil conditions may actually promote growth of unhealthy microorganisms.


Last Updated September 2013

Photos © Godofredo Stuart / StuartXchange

Additional Sources and Suggested Readings
Tradescantia pallida / Wikipedia
Anthocyanins of Tradescantia pallida. Potential Food Colorants / Z Ulin shi et al / Journal of Food Science
Volume 57 Issue 3, Pages 761 - 765 / DOI 10.1111/j.1365-2621.1992.tb08090
Biowalls / Clean Air / Living Walls and Vertical GardensTrue art.
Common plants can help remove indoor air pollutants / Ani / Health News
Indoor Air Pollution: An Introduction for Health Professionals / Can plants control indoor air pollution? / Environmental Protection Agency

Taiwanese Native Medicinal Plants / Phytopharmacology and Therapeutic Values / Thomas S.C. Li, Ph.D. / 2006 / CRC Taylor & Francis
Houseplant Toxicity Week: Part 5 / Plants are the strangest people /
INAA applied to Tradescantia pallida plant study for environmental pollution monitoring / M. Saiki, E. R. Alves, N. M. Sumita, P. H. N. Saldiva / Czechoslovak Journal of Physics, 2003, Volume 53, Issue 1 Supplement, pp A189-A193
Sensitivity of Tradescantia pallida (Rose) Hunt. 'Purpurea' Boom to genotoxicity induced by ozone.
/ de Souza Lima E, de Souza SR, Domingos M / Mutation Research [2009, 675(1-2):41-45] / DOI: 10.1016/j.mrgentox.2009.02.007

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