SPECIES PROFILE: ROUND-LEAVED SUNDEW

If you were a super lucky kid and, like me, grew up having a pet Venus flytrap, then let me share with you my excitement about the first ever plant feature on the BogBlog’s Species Profile – the insectivorous round-leaved sundew!

Round-leaved sundew (Drosera rotundifolia) is widely found across the geographic zone of the northern hemisphere known as the circumboreal. Common throughout British Columbia, you need only venture to your local wetlands to observe these voracious little plants. The trend among the various species and regions is that sundews are found in marshes, bogs, fens, sphagnum beds, and other such habitats that remain wet through high sun exposure.

round-leaved sundew distribution in BC

Recorded distribution of round-leaved sundew in B.C.. E-Flora BC: Electronic Atlas of the Plants of British Columbia

The round-leaved sundew is quite a small plant. It grows 3 – 5 cm in diameter, and 5 – 25 cm tall. Each stem ends in a round leaf blade of about 6 – 12 mm wide. These leaf blades are covered with upward facing red hairs that secrete an insect-trapping fluid. The round-leaved sundew produces pink or white flowers along a long stem that extends above the main leaf cluster to ensure that the pollinating insects are not trapped on the hairs.

Sundews evolved their carnivorous nature to supplement the nutrient deficient substrates in which they grow. The brightly coloured red hairs that grow on their leaves secrete a liquid that traps and digests insects that land on it. The broken down proteins provide ammonia that would otherwise be extracted as nitrogen from soil. They are known to eat mosquitoes, gnats, and even small moths!

round-leaved sundew with moth

Round-leaved sundew on sphagnum moss bed with a captured moth.

The round-leaved sundew is also a very beautiful plant. The red coloured hairs are an eye-catching treat amongst the deep earthy tones of its surrounding environment. The glistening drops of insect-trapping fluid are enough to lure appreciative humans as well. Sundews also hold cultural significance and medicinal properties. The Haida first nations called sundew “many hearts” and used it as a good luck charm when fishing. Modern homeopathic applications include use as an anti-inflammatory, antispasmodic chest relaxant, and topical treatment for warts.

So if you’re a parent keen on getting your kids outdoors, I suggest divesting the responsibility of babysitting to your new pet sundew – it will help get your kids outside exploring nature while searching for its supper, and help control your kitchen fruit fly population.

Featured photo by Bill Bouton

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