You do not need to be a rock-licker, tree-hugger, or friend of the bunnies to appreciate the intricacies of the web of life that surrounds us. You might need to sit quietly and pay attention once in a while, but there’s nothing wrong with that.

Sometimes, though, sitting quietly isn’t enough. Sometimes you need to crawl on your hands and knees into wet sphagnum.


Acidic and poor in nutrients, mats of sphagnum are not a good environment for most plants, unless they can find a way to feed themselves. Sundews have done just that, trapping insects with sticky tentacles and then producing enzymes that slowly turn bugs into soup, which is then absorbed through their leaves.


I once told someone where they could see sundews for themselves, cautioning that they are small and live in fragile surroundings. That person came back disappointed, having not seen a one. When I returned to the spot I was disappointed to find the whole area had been trampled underfoot as they searched.

Sometimes, you have to crawl.

Easy to Miss

Sundews can move their tentacles, curling over their prey and holding it close for more efficient digestion.

Huggin’ a Bug

They also produce flowers, which will be open any day now. Self-fertile, they can pollinate themselves, producing seeds from which the next generation will sprout.

Sundew Flower Stalk

They feed themselves and they pollinate themselves. Other than poor, acidic soil in a buggy sphagnum patch, what more could a carnivorous plant need?

(More photos of sundews can be found in the new gallery at Nonesuch Mountain Images.)

Categories: nature | Tags: , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

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4 thoughts on “Sundews

  1. Idaho Steel

    Very nice!

    In Southeast Alaska, we had two species of sundew, as well as two species of butterwort. The common butterwort was relatively easy to spot if you knew what you were looking for, but the hairy butterwort, like the sundews, often requires one to get down on hands and knees and stick your nose in the muskeg.

    Sadly, sitting quietly and paying attention are traits that Americans have seemingly bred out of ourselves… To paraphrase Lynn Flewelling:: “We have no awe left in us for the little marvels. All our wonder has turned to appetite.”

    • I suspect there are two kinds of sundew here, too, but haven’t confirmed it yet. One has spoon-shaped leaves, the other is spatulate (spell check doesn’t like that one!). I also have an inkling that other carnivorous plants can be found, deeper in the bog, but the cloud of mosquitoes that billows from the peat is intimidating. I usually turn back after about 20 yards for fear of excessive blood loss.

      Too many people are not receptive to all those little things that are right there in front of them. They may look, but they do not see.

  2. Ya’ learn something new every day, Quill! Or well, maybe, one might learn something new at least as often as one reads the “Fish In A Barrel Pond Blog.” I did. Today. Thanks!

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