A Carnivorous Sundew

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A blog post by Emma

Sundews (Genus: Drosera)

The name ‘Drosera‘ comes from the Greek ‘drosos‘ meaning ‘dew’ or ‘dewdrops’. They are one of the largest genera of carnivorous plants in the world.

Like all members of their family (Droseraceae), they lure, capture, and digest insects using a thick, gluey substance called mucilage which they have on stalks covering their leaves. The insects are used to supplement the poor mineral nutrition of the soil in which the plants grow.


Drosera stenopetala

The photos in this post were taken by Tom and I during our stint volunteering with kākāpō on Whenua Hou Island, New Zealand, in November 2018. You can read more about our trip here.

We came across a large patch of Drosera stenopetala alongside a wet track near the summit of the island.

The track on Whenua Hou Island alongside which we found our patch of Drosera stenopetala
Click to zoom in

They are such remarkable, little plants. But, due to their size, they’d be quite easy to march past unless you were taking the time to look at the small world beneath your feet.

The world beneath our feet
Click to zoom in

Drosera stenopetala is an alpine sundew, of which New Zealand has only two species. It is New Zealand’s only endemic representative of this genus. The other alpine sundew, Drosera arcturi, is native to both New Zealand and Australia.

Can you spot the insect the sundew has captured in the photo below?

Click to zoom in

Drosera stenopetala fruits in the warmer months between November and March, and recedes into dormancy over winter. They produce a solitary white flower that stands at about twice the height of the leaves (see above). This was our first time photographing one in flower! They then produce tiny seeds that are dispersed by the wind.

Click to zoom in


We really enjoyed this wonderful encounter, even if we are very slow in posting these days! Our two little boys have been keeping us very busy. Not too busy to enjoy the great outdoors at least, just too busy to actually document it in blog form. 😆 We hope to have a write another post soon. Until then!


References and Further Reading

New Zealand Plant Conservation Network – Drosera stenopetala – https://www.nzpcn.org.nz/flora/species/drosera-stenopetala/
Retrieved 5th June 2022

NZ Flora – Drosera stenopetala Hook.f. – https://www.nzflora.info/factsheet/Taxon/Drosera-stenopetala.html
Retrieved 5th June 2022

The New Zealand Carnivorous Plant Society – Drosera stenopetala – https://web.archive.org/web/20081014144013/http://www.nzcps.co.nz/NZCPSDroserastenopetala.html
Retrieved 5th June 2022

Hooker, J.D. 1853: The Botany of the Antarctic Voyage of H.M. Discovery Ships Erebus and Terror in the Years 1839–1843, under the command of Captain Sir James Clark Ross. II. Flora Novae-Zelandiae. Part I. Flowering plants. Lovell Reeve, London. (Link here)
Retrieved 5th June 2022

3 Comments Add yours

  1. naturebackin says:

    Very interesting and gorgeous photos. It was helpful to see the context of these small plants. Nice to see you posting again!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Thank you for this interesting post. Carnivorous plants are definitely fascinating, but I also find them slightly creepy.
    Hope you will find more time to blog. 😊

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Amy Archer says:

    Missing adventuring with you guys!! ❤️❤️

    Liked by 1 person

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