Round leaved sundew. (Bernard Dupont, Wikimedia Common)

Round leaved sundew. (Bernard Dupont, Wikimedia Common)

The Nature Nut

Rosamund Pojar

Now is a good time to go looking for carnivorous (insectivorous) plants. Yes, these are plants that actively catch their dinner.

Round-leaved sundew (Drosera rotundifolia) and long-leaved sundews (Drosera anglica) can be found in wet fens and bogs busy catching insects to eat. A great place to see them is on the boardwalk leading to Goldeneye Lake which takes off from the Smithers Community Forest Nature Trail.

To suck up nutrients (especially nitrogen) from the ground, roots must have a supply of oxygen. Sundews are adapted to living in wet areas (often acidic) where their roots are sitting underwater with no available oxygen.

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To get nutrients the sundews trap insects.

Their leaves are covered in stalked, shiny (dewy) glands that are very sticky. Insects are attracted to the shiny, sticky glands and land on the leaves. They get stuck and start to wriggle around and this movement stimulates the leaves to fold up and trap the insect. The leaf excretes enzymes that digest the soft parts of the insect, and these juices are sucked up by the leaves. When finished, the sundew leaf will open again leaving only the husk of the insect to dry and blow away.

Another carnivorous plant occurring in B.C. are butterworts with greasy, sticky leaves and pitcher plants that have leaves modified into a cup-shaped tube containing digestive enzymes.


The sides of the ‘pitcher’ are slippery and have downward pointing hairs so creatures that fall in cannot get out.

Bladderworts are aquatic plants with tiny, underwater, bladder traps on their roots. The bladder trap is triggered to ‘suck in’ a small creature that touches a hair trigger.

Insectivorous plants are especially abundant in tropical forests. The fast rate of decomposition of litter due to heat and moisture means the soils tend to be nitrogen poor.

So, it is very advantageous to be able to capture insects and other creatures such as tiny frogs, worms, and even small birds as a nitrogen source.

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