Plants that eat animals!

Last weekend I was walking with my family up Mount Dyer Peak near Gansbaai when I came across this sundew, Drosera cistiflora, sparkling in the morning sun.

Drosera cistiflora on Drosera species or sundews as they are commonly known grow mostly in seeps and wet areas in soils that are poor in nutrients where most other plants struggle to survive. They are able to survive because of their ability to obtain nitrogen not from the soil but from insects that they capture and devour. As can be seen in the photo on the right which I took on our walk, the leaves are covered in glandular tentacles, each tipped with a drop of sticky fluid. Contact with one of these ‘glue drops’ is sufficient to capture an unsuspecting insect. This is followed by rapid multiplication of cells on the outer side of the surrounding tentacles which then bend in to entrap the victum. Digestive enzymes in the glue then break down the insect and nutrienst released from its body provide a nutritious meal for the plant!

Drosera citiflora on Witkrans Farm  

Drosera cistiflora has an unbranched leafy stem and a basal rosette of these tentacle bearing leaves that are 20-30 mm long, as well as longer leaves arising from the upright stem. The flowers can be white as in our area, or red, yellow or mauve always with a characteristic dark green eye. This species grows from Namaqualand to Port Elizabeth.

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