All that glitters

The dazzling lure of sundews

By SANDY LONG
Posted 9/29/21

Nestled into mats of sphagnum moss, or clinging to old stumps protruding from boggy swamps and marshes in the Upper Delaware River region, are delicate carnivorous plants sometimes referred to as …

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All that glitters

The dazzling lure of sundews

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Nestled into mats of sphagnum moss, or clinging to old stumps protruding from boggy swamps and marshes in the Upper Delaware River region, are delicate carnivorous plants sometimes referred to as nature’s flypaper.

The tiny but tenacious sundew brings to mind something from a Dr. Seuss book, with rounded leaves fringed with pinkish hair-like projections which secrete a dewy substance that sparkles like little diamonds.

But don’t be fooled by the exquisite beauty of this insectivorous (insect-eating) plant. Bugs drawn to the glittering globules of enzymes produced by these fascinating plants will find themselves unable to escape from the sticky liquid. Once trapped, the sundew enfolds its prey and slowly digests it, absorbing nutrients from the hapless insect.

The plant is not harmful to humans, and in the past, was used in teas or tinctures to treat asthma, bronchitis and arteriosclerosis. Its juices were sometimes tapped to treat corns and warts due to their antibacterial, antiviral and antifungal properties.

Loss of wetland habitat is the primary threat to sundews. When traversing boggy terrain, tread lightly and look closely for tiny droplets of glittering light. You might find a special form of gold right at your feet!

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