About the Sundew


Sundews are carnivorous plants from the Drosera genus that use sticky leaves to capture and digest insects. About 180 different species can be found throughout the world, with representatives thriving in a diverse range of climates. Whereas some varieties are common in their native range and nearly considered weeds, others occupy very small, isolated niches and are threatened with extinction.


Since sundews live in varying climates, certain species have developed unique root systems that allow them to endure the conditions of their environment. Some Drosera species grow stringy masses of roots like ordinary flowering plants. Others are geophytes, meaning that they grow from hardy bulbs or corms which persist even after harsh seasonal conditions lay waste to foliage above ground. Sundews also exhibit a large degree of variation in size between different species; many are large and easy to spot, while others could fit in a thimble.


The leaves of the sundew are covered in rows of small hairs that secrete droplets of clear, sticky nectar. When an insect attempts to walk or land upon the plant, they get stuck in these glue-like secretions. Captured prey is digested on the leaf face, which transfers the supplemental nutrients to other parts of the plant. Certain varieties take no chances, curling their leaves around their victim to ensure it cannot wriggle free. A few Sundews will even call upon multiple surrounding leaves, enveloping the prisoner to speed up the process of digestion.


Sundews thrive on every continent but Antarctica, owing to their impressive diversity. The habitats in which they live fit into three rough categories: jungles which are wet and humid year-round, colder temperate regions that may occasionally freeze over, and sub-tropical areas that endure harsh dry seasons. Sundews will usually go dormant to escape the extreme yearly climate shifts in some parts of the world, emerging only during less severe months.


As with most carnivorous plants, caring for captive sundew specimens can be somewhat challenging if cultivated outside of their natural range. These plants are highly-adapted to their native climates and don't do well if these conditions cannot be replicated exactly in captivity. Oftentimes, a terrarium proves the best means of cultivation, trapping sufficient humidity and allowing growers to provide Sundews with the bright light they require. Potting medium should usually consist of one part sphagnum peat moss and one part sand. This makes for an acidic, low-nutrient mixture that remains course when damp.


Sundews are perennials, meaning that they usually live for many years if they can evade predation, disease, and the environmental pressures enacted by encroaching humans. Although all sundews flower and produce seeds, they improve their chances of survival by growing new plants at points where their leaf tips touch the ground. The root stocks of some Droseras will even naturally divide, producing new, revitalized plantlets that may endure after the parent plant eventually dies.

Keywords: sundew, drosera, carnivorous plant

About this Author

Justin Coleman is a freelance writer based in Connecticut. Since 2007, he has covered a variety of topics, including biology and computers, amongst others. Coleman is currently a freelance nature and technology writer and wildlife photographer. When not working, Coleman tirelessly explores new areas of nature, history, philosophy, comparative religion, technology and sociology.