The carnivorous sundew plant (Drosera spp.), grows in parts of northern Asia, Europe, Australia, South Africa, South America and bogs across North America. Its carnivorous abilities allow the plant to survive in nutrient poor, acidic soil conditions. The plant requires sunlight and constantly wet or moist soil to thrive. It will not tolerate shady conditions.
Approximately 150 species of sundews grow around the world. Some tolerate subtropical and tropical locations, but others, such as the round-leaf sundew can grow in temperate bogs as far north as Alaska with ease. The plants easily invade disturbed areas of the bog that lack abundant native vegetation. They plants even manage to grow in bogs that have had up to 6 feet of the peat moss harvested. Sundew plants grow at elevations of up to 6,000 feet.
The sundew plant grows to a height of approximately 8 inches. An overabundance of native plants such as ferns can shade out the shorter sundew. Without sufficient sunlight, the sundew will quickly perish. The sundew sports sticky, glandular leaf hairs. When the insect alights on the sticky surface, of the leaf it begins to curl around the insect. The hairs on the leaf secrete an acidic enzyme that begins to digest the insect, so the plant can use its nutrients. The sundew benefits from capturing insects in sites that have few nutrients. The added nutrients that the sundew can absorb from the insect helps the plant to grow and reproduce.
Sundews that grow within a temperate habitat require a period of cold stratification to successfully germinate its seeds. The seeds need at least four weeks of continuous cold before planting. During the winter months, the round-leaf sundew plant enters a state of dormancy. Sometimes the plant stays in dormancy for over half of the year. Sundew plants grown outdoors, in the home landscape, will naturally enter and leave dormancy, just as the plant would in its native habitat.
The sundew plant grows well in a container. Grow the sundew plant in a sterile sand and moss mixture. Line the top of the soil with sphagnum moss. Sundews require a location that provides at least six hours of sunlight per day. Planting the sundew in a terrarium will help keep the plant humid. Keep the plant constantly moist but not waterlogged. The sundew requires no fertiliser when grown in a container but will garner its nutrients from insects. Allow the sundew plant to capture two or three small insects per week. The plant will enjoy consuming ants or fruit flies. Consider overwintering the sundew plant in the refrigerator to keep it healthy and replicate its natural habitat during the winter months.
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- International Carnivorous Plant Society; Growing Drosera Rotundifolia; John Brittnacher
- United States Department of Agriculture Forest Service; Drosera Rotundifolia; Robin F. Mathews; 1994
- United States Department of Agriculture Natural Resources Conservation Services: Drosera Rotundifolia
- Herbs 2000: Sundew
- Lord Whimsy: Sundew Care Sheet
- My Carnivore: Sundew Care Instructions