Newest Review: ... leaflets are triggered to snap shut, closing around and imprisoning their insect prey. Sundews fall somewhere between these two extremes... more
Small, but perfectly formed, carnivourous plant
Member Name: worst_trip
Advantages: Interesting and looked at closely, attractive little plant; fun for kids to see
Disadvantages: Its tiny size makes it a pretty inconspicuous pot plant
Sundews, of the genus Drosera, are Britain's only native carnivorous plant - although it has to be said that apparently a number of smaller Sarracenias, or pitcher plants, have become naturalized in some of the peat bogs in Southern Ireland.
Growing in nutrient-poor substrates, such as sphagnum bogs, carnivorous plants in general cope with the lack of fertile growing conditions by catching, digesting and absorbing the nutrients from (mainly) flying insects. A number of insect-capturing mechanisms have evolved in the various families of carnivorous plant - many of these as 'passive' traps, as for example in the pitcher plants, where insects fall into water-filled 'vases' made out of modified leaves, and drown there. The other extreme being, of course the Venus Fly-trap, where modified leaflets are triggered to snap shut, closing around and imprisoning their insect prey. Sundews fall somewhere between these two extremes; while insects are ensnared by being stuck in highly sticky 'glue' secreted by the plant, once a prey item is caught, the leaves slowly close around their victim's body (over a period of hours), and then secrete digestive enzymes that begin to break down their catch.
While quite lovely viewed in close-up, it has to admitted that Sundews are not especially spectacular plants, as a specimen with a leaf-span reaching a three-inch diameter would be considered to be something of a giant. The pale green, spoon-shaped leaves grow in the form of a rosette, with dark red bristles all over the surface, each one secreting a bead of clear, glistening 'dew' - the sticky material with which the sundew traps its insect prey. Grown in the home, it's not generally necessary to 'feed' Sundews with insects; they tend to manage quite well without.
As these plants grow in bogs where they are rarely shaded by overhanging vegetation, sundews need a period in full sun each day. As bog plants, they also need to be kept moist - ideally with lime-free water, because these plants are adapted to grow in acidic conditions - at all times (this is easy enough to achieve by placing the sundew's pot in a saucer of e.g. distilled water). When purchased as indoor plants from e.g. garden centres, potted specimens generally cost between £3 to £5. Carnivorous plants in general tend to require specialist (and acidic) mixtures as regards their growing medium - recipes are easy to make up and can be found online - but sadly, I think it's fair to say that most commercially-purchased Sundews have such a short life-span that they never get to the stage where they need to be repotted.
These are interesting little plants, very attractive if you take the time to notice them properly, and being carnivorous are always popular with kids.
Summary: Interesting but not an 'architectural' or 'specimen' pot plant, exactly....
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