D is for Drosera, the stealthy carnivores of the buttongrass flora #MelaleucaMiscellany

Despite the fact that there are sundews all over the place at Melaleuca, this seems to be the only one I got a photo of.

Despite the fact that there are sundews all over the place at Melaleuca, this seems to be the only one I got a photo of, and then, only its flower.  Bad plant paparazzo!

Droseras, or sundews, are in abundance in the buttongrass moorlands of Melaleuca – eating insects allows them to take up nutrients which might otherwise be hard to come by. The excellent Tasmanian Plant Names Unravelled informs me that the genus name comes from the Greek droseros, which means “dewy”. These apparent dew-drops are actually a caustic sap containing digestive enzymes, secreted by the plant’s sticky glands, which allow it to trap and then slowly digest its unwitting insect prey (bwahahahaa!).

There are three common sundews in the area – the teensy weensy dwarf sundew (Drosera pygmaea), the forked sundew (Drosera binata, which autocorrect wants to rename Drosera banana), and the rather sturdy alpine sundew (Drosera arcturi).

Here is a fabulously shite animation showing how sundews capture their prey, generated by Barry Rice from his evil-genius interwebz lair. I’ve always had a bit of a soft spot for carnivorous plants, and if you have even a passing interest in them, I highly recommend Barry’s slightly eccentric website, Sarracenia.com.  As well as providing plenty of information on the biology of the plants that eat animals, Barry also makes fun of hapless hardware store assistants who suggest he feed his newly-purchased carnies bits of mince (“What is it, a kitten?!”), and does gross experiments where he feeds bits of his athlete’s foot-ridden skin to a Venus flytrap to work out if Little Shop of Horrors was really onto something.

Despite, or perhaps because of, their relative abundance, I apparently only took a couple of photos of sundews at Melaleuca, and that was only of the flowers.  I will never be a proper botanerd.  So, instead of my own photos, I offer you this slightly cat-chewed, but still rather spiffing herbarium specimen, collected and labelled by a botanist even more prone to excessive punctuation than I am (!!!).  Please do make sure you read the label.





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