Carnivorous plants that look like Drosera

Well, we heard of sundew, the Drosera, when the dew is shined by light, it produces a mini rainbow. Why does it not called a rainbow plant? This is because the rainbow plant, the common name, is taken by Byblis under the family of B­yblidaceae that is native to Australia. Byblis can appear as frosted sprays of water and sparkle with multicolored hues in the presence of light. It is not a sundew but it may look like a sundew. Byblis prefers fairly well-drained sandy soil. The rainbow plant looks like a “giant” version of sundew as it stands two feet tall or more which looks like a tall filiformis sundew but it is not a sundew nor in the family of Droseraceae.

Byblis produces lilac to mauve color flowers, although white variants also observed. It produces seeds via cross-pollination as the stigma and anthers are far away to prevent self-pollination. It can be propagated through root cuttings that laid horizontally under the soil surface that keep at the moist condition. From a distant view, its morphology shows as a large and leafless shrub or weed that is even expanding in a hedgelike growth pattern when the leaves are plentiful. Its sheer size requires more nutrients than Drosera. Apart from small insects of different sizes, tiny frogs, lizards, or even young birds have been found stuck to the “arms” and branches of Byblis.

The leaves of the rainbow plant consist of two glands that function differently. The stalked and hair-like glands that capped with a clear and sticky glue help to sticky small insects such as gnats and mosquitoes and made them suffocate as well as die from exhaustion. The second gland, sessile glands then come into the role in digestion which secretes digestive fluid to digest the soft part of the prey. It can be propagated through root cuttings that new plantlets are readily produced through this way as it seems to store moisture in its roots. As opposed to the sundew, this hungry carnivore has a large appetite in which it could eat small animals!

Another carnivore that looks like either Drosera or Byblis is Drosophyllum. It is commonly known as dewy pine of flycatcher that under the family of Drosophyllaceae. The highly developed long and thin leaves that are narrow and linear shape in a cluster form resembles a tuft of pine needles, therefore, their common name. Drosophyllum is native to the Western Mediterranean that also can be found in far-off Morocco and the dry soil of the Portugal hills as well as southern Spain. It is well adapting to hot Mediterranean habitats that always confused carnivorous plant horticulturists who grow carnivorous plants in wet conditions. It must grow in slightly moist and well-drained soil medium in the Mediterranean climate. Surprisingly, it is sharing some genetic traits with Asia Nepenthes and with Triphyophyllum.

It can be propagated through seeds and scarification on old seeds. It is a low, shrubby, and rosette plant that produces long leaves. This rosette dewy pine has a woody stem as a result of skirted thatch by the dead leaves. The upper surface of the leaves has a shallow fold or furrow that runs along the length of the leaves, whereas, the lower surface is lined with several rows of stalked glands that are tinted in red color. It bears two different types of glands on the secondary branching stem for each rosette. The glands are specialized in red and stalked type that looking much like a miniature toadstool around the stem, whereas the other type is green that found right at the stem.

The trapping mechanism is slightly different from that of Drosera. The red glands (pedunculate glands) functions to lure the insects through the bright coloration of the reddish tentacles and to produce oily secretion instead of sticky glue that sticks the insects. The oily mucilage is readily pulling off from the glands and adhere to the struggling insects. Therefore, the insects are then drowned by these accumulated secretions of the tall tentacles on their bodies. The digestive fluid is secreted by the green glands (sessile glands) that digest the insects and absorb the desired nutrients. Surprisingly, a mosquito can be fully digested by this plant within around twenty-four hours. The remaining bodies of the insects will be left to blow by the wind or wash away by the rain. It can be potted in well-drain soil with high humid air around the plant to survive in the greenhouse. The flower of Drosophyllum is bright yellow which takes two years to occur. It does propagate through the seeds via self-pollination. Traditionally, farmers used Drosophyllum to catch flies by hanging it in their house as natural flypaper.

Triphyophyllum, a small angiosperm in the family of Dioncophyllaceae that has a very narrow range in tropical Europe and West Africa. Triphyophyllum peltatum is the single species of the family. Little knowledge of this carnivorous plant is recorded. The genus name, Triphyophyllum literally means “three leaves” as it has three different leaf morphologies. The leaves are long and lanceolate produced in rosette form in the juvenile stage. Terminate leaves are observed in pair of recurved hooks that help the plant to hang on to foliage as a climbing vine. The third type of leaves is carnivorous and indirectly associated with flowering.

Interestingly, this Triphyophyllum only produces carnivorous leaves during a short period in its juvenile phase. This suggested that it acquire nutrients through preying to reach maturation and flowering. However, the carnivorous stage of this plant is not essential for it to complete its life cycle. It is a scandent shrub in disturbed habitats or as a climbing vine which is a tropical woody liana that can grow up to forty to fifty meters in length in pristine rainforest. It requires a large pot with a substrate made of peaty, gravelly, and well-drained soil. It needs to be cultivated in deep shade before maturation and extremely high humidity and hot temperature. It is propagated via seeds produced by self-pollination of the flower. Since it is climbing vine-like Nepenthes, propagation through stem cutting is also possible. Stem cutting induces new shoots that appear at the base of the mother plant.

Another flypaper, Roridula under the family of Roridulaceae which can be found in South Africa that commonly known as a flycatcher. Very little documentation on this genus. Generally, it has long leaves that have pores or cracks known as “piercing mouthparts” which able to suck out the vital fluids of their victims. They can be cultivated in the conditions of Drosophyllum.

These carnivorous plants look similar to Drosera due to the dewy structures, but none of them are under the same family of Drosera. So, it is essential to categorize them out to cultivate them differently!

Further readings:

Temple, P. (1988). Carnivorous plants.

Pietropaolo, J., Pietropaolo, P. A., & James. Pietropaolo. (1999). Carnivorous plants of the world. Timber Press.

Meyers-Rice, B. (2006). Growing carnivorous plants. Timber Press.

Ellison, A. M., & Gotelli, N. J. (2009). Energetics and the evolution of carnivorous plants—Darwin’s ‘most wonderful plants in the world’. Journal of Experimental Botany60(1), 19-42.

D’amato, P. (2013). The savage garden, revised: Cultivating carnivorous plants. Ten Speed Press.