October 13, 2013They might look beautiful and rather innocent because of their tiny 0,5 cm (0,19 inches) leaves, but this truly is a killer plant... Oblong-leaved sundew (Drosera intermedia) is a carnivorous plant and capable of attracting and 'digesting' their insect prey. This drosera species is one of three related sundews occurring in the Netherlands. I found this one while hiking with a friend in the Kampina.
The Kampina is a nature reserve consisting of both heathland, pine forests and bogs. Bogs are typically acidic and low in nutrients. To supplement their nutrition sundews attract insects by secreting these otherworldly drops of mucilage. Insects get trapped in this strong and sugary glue and either suffocate or die from exhaustion. Drosera then proceeds with secreting digestive enzymes and absorbs the resulting nutrient solution of what once was an innocent fly. Yeah, tough luck!
There are parallels to be found between this behavior and people taking extra jobs to supplement their income (and eventually their nutrient intake). And another parallel involves sticky fingers :) However, the story of Drosera and it's mucilage doesn't end there. Here are some fun facts for you:
- in nordic countries one variety of the dairy product called filmjölk is made by using leaves of the sundew family;
- drosera is used as part of a homeopathic remedy, but has been used as a herbal remedy for coughs as early as the 12th century;
- its mucilage is so strong and elastic that researches see future potential use in the field of nanotechnology.