I’ve always found sundews to be the most interesting carnivorous plants. Despite their small size, the methods by which they move have always interested me. The trichomes, the little hairs they use to catch prey, always looked like Drosera are hugging their prey. Since these are unusually easy to grow for carnivorous plants, I image that I’ll give these a try sometime soon.
Drosera capensis (Cape Sundew)
Hardiness Zones: 8-9
Height: typically 15 centimeters (7 inches) tall at maturity
Diameter: 15-22 centimeters (7-10 inches) in diameter
Growth Rate: fast
Root System: well-developed once mature
Subspecies: ‘Albino’ (produces white flowers), ‘Broad Leaf’, can be grown in ‘Wide Leaf Form’ or ‘Narrow Leaf Form’ or ‘Red Form’
Tolerates: moist, boggy soils with few nutrients readily available
Problems (major): Without prey, growth will be inhibited (D. capensis can grow without prey, albeit slower).
Problems (minor): Aphids, mealy bugs, and thrips can harm new growth. Under proper conditions, these can self-propogate to the point of being excessive. Consuming too much prey at once can “burn” the laminae (singular, lamina – the “leaf”), damaging them.
Poisonous: presumably no
Soil requirements: Requires acidic, moist, boggy soils (These tend to lack Nitrogen among other key chemicals.)
Air Requirements: high humidity, especially when digesting prey
Watering requirement: requires consistently damp soil
Sun requirement: full sun or part-shade
Common prey: tiny insects such as midge flies
Type of carnivorous plant: Sundew; these use tentacles (trichomes) with sticky, nectar-like fluids to catch prey. Once the prey is stuck on at least one tentacle (trichome), others close in, enveloping the victim. The leaf may fold over entirely to more efficiently absorb the prey. The liquid in this nectar-like substance contains digestive enzymes, which help break down its prey into valuable resources the plant requires for survival.
Time required to consume prey: It takes sometimes several hours to entirely ensnare prey.
Sphagnum/peat moss preferred: These are very easy to grow, especially in sphagnum moss. Brighter light and peat moss will turn the laminae and petioles a more red color.
Symbiotic/Mutualistic relationships: no major symbiotic/mutualistic relationships
Medicinal uses: Leaf extracts are rumored to help with warts and sunburn. Leaf extracts may function as tranquilizers or help against tuberculosis, asthma, syphillis, and some intestinal problems.
Leaf shape: The laminae are covered in many tentacles (properly know nas “trichomes”) that contain a sticky, nectar-like substance at the end. When insects try to feed on this “nectar”, they become stuck and are slowly ingested. The laminae and petioles are strap-shaped.
Leaf size: The petioles are about as long as the lamina, although half as wide.
Flower structure: Flowers are small (1 centimeter across), pink, and arrive in groups of 15 to 30. Flowers can be pollinated by insects, although they typically self-pollinate.
Flowering frequency: Flowering occurs in December and January.
Bulb/tuber: neither, forms a “woody” rhizomatous stem that easily produces offsets/offshoots
Drosera capensis is surprisingly easy to propogate, either by seed or vegetatively by rhizome offsets. These can appear more red if given a lot of sunlight and are grown in peat moss instead of sphagnum. Digesting too much prey at once can lead to “burns”, which may damage the laminae.
These are helpful if gnats or small insects are bothersome, although it will take them some time to eliminate the problem. These make quite interesting specimen plants as well.
- D’Amato, P. 1998. The Savage Garden: Cultivating Carnivorous Plants. Ten Speed Press, California.
- Gibson, R. 1993. Cape sundew: Drosera capensis : know it and grow it. Veld & Flora 79: 54, 55.
- Manneveldt, G.W. 1998. Sundews. Veld & Flora 84: 10, 11.
- Voigt, W. 2003. Plants with appetite. Veld & Flora 89: 18-20.