Now on display at your local bog (in most of the U.S. — absent as a native in only 13 states — and in Canada): The carnivorous and gorgeous Drosera rotundifolia, also known as common or round-leaved sundew. This leaf is slightly larger than a thumbnail, so you have to crouch down to see it. . A small five-petaled white flower will appear later this summer.
“In addition to its well-known carnivory, round-leaved sundew, which lives in acid bogs, has the highest concentration of vitamin C in its leaves of any known plant. In his book, Insectivorous Plants, Charles Darwin recounts many experiments he conducted on round-leaved sundew. The sticky substance exuded by its leaves trap insects that the plant then digests … but they are also contain naturally-occurring nano-compounds with potential applications for tissue engineering and development of new adhesives.”
There are at least 194 species of sundews, including pink (D. capillaris), thread-leaved (D. filiformis), spatulate-leaved or oblong (D. intermedia; the only other species found in New Hampshire), slender-leaved (D. linearis), English (D. anglica), and dwarf (D. brevifolia). If you have the interest, check out Impacts of Terrestrial and Aquatic Flora: The Sundew at J&J Science for lots more info.
A paper at Montana Outdoors describes in grisly detail the carnivorous feeding of the sundew:
“Lured by the vivid red color [Wikipedia says research has shown this part is not true] or the dew drops’ sweet secretions, a mosquito or other small insect stopping here goes no farther. The bug’s frantic struggle to escape the sticky droplet proves futile. Long stalked glands—the tentacles—slowly roll inward, releasing more glue and securing the prey in the center of the leaf, which secretes acids that eventually decompose the prey. The insect suffocates in less than 15 minutes, but it may take several days for the leaf to absorb the bug juice nourishment. As the tentacles resume their upright stance, the insect’s empty shell blows away, erasing evidence of the plant’s previous deed. The ravenous beauty then awaits its next meal.”
Ravenous beauty indeed.
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