Green Thumb | Beautiful, silent assassin

INSECTS BEWARE: Drosera capensis has tentacles that appear to be tipped with a drop of dew. This is an extremely effective and very sticky mechanism for catching small insects.
INSECTS BEWARE: Drosera capensis has tentacles that appear to be tipped with a drop of dew. This is an extremely effective and very sticky mechanism for catching small insects.

The genus Drosera – commonly known as sundews contains more than one hundred species, many of which are Australian natives. The word Drosera comes from the Latin Drosos, meaning dew.

The genus is quite varied – from short to quite tall – about 60 centimetres but one thing they all have in common are the small tentacles which cover the leaves. 

These tentacles appear to have water droplets like dew over them, but these droplets are really a sticky substance that holds and traps insects. 

When an insect lands or walks onto the leaf it gets stuck and more tentacles move to grab the hapless creature; sometimes the whole leaf may roll around the insect leaving it with no hope of escape.

The sticky substance contains a weak acid and enzymes which start work quickly to break down the insects  which are dissolved producing nourishment for the plant. After a while the sundew leaves will unroll and the dry shell of the insect is left to blow away. 

One of the most common and one of the easiest sundews to grow is Drosera capensis – the Cape sundew.  A native of South Africa this plant is fantastic for bug catching.

Grow Drosera capensis in a mix made from rinsed peat/perlite and sphagnum moss for healthy growth.  Sundews naturally grow in boggy soil, along streams or in marshes so it’s important to re-create these conditions. 

Potted sundews should sit in a saucer or a container holding a centimetre or more of water at all times.  Water quality is quite important; rain water is fine but tap water is not perfect for their growth.  Many houses have water tanks and tank water is okay too.

The Cape sundew is perennial and should grow all year round. Sometimes if the weather isn’t perfect for it or if it’s accidentally been left dry for a period of time, the plant may die down. Don’t throw it away, give it good conditions and plenty of water and you’ll find it should reshoot within a couple of weeks.

Spikes of flowers are produced around December and January and masses of seed are produced. The seed can be collected and sown on a damp peaty media.

So this extremely pretty plant, a plant that looks delicate and appears to be covered with morning dew, is really designed to entice insects to their death.

Diary

If you’ve been thinking about studying horticulture, Wodonga TAFE has a Certificate III in Horticulture course timetabled to begin at the end of February 2018 running Mondays, Tuesdays and Wednesdays. Visit, www.wodongatafe.edu.au/courses/AHC30716/Certificate-III-in-Horticulture.