Skip to main content

U.S. Forest Service

Plant of the Week

Drosera anglica range map. Drosera anglica range map. USDA PLANTS Database.

Damselfly in a sundew. Damselfly in a sundew (Drosera anglica). Photo by Deb Bond.

Drosera anglica in the Tepee Lake Fen. Drosera anglica in the Tepee Lake Fen. Photo by Deb Bond.

Tepee Lake. Tepee Lake, Kootenai National Forest, Montana. Photo by Deb Bond.

English sundew (Drosera anglica)

By Deb Bond, Libby Ranger District, Kootenai National Forest

English sundew or great sundew is a carnivorous plant. It has long tentacles on its tiny leaves tipped with red colored glands that exude attractive nectar. Insects that land on the leaves stick fast. The nearby tentacles coil around the prey. This is usually a slow but effective process. Digestive enzymes mire down the prey and eventually it dies of exhaustion or asphyxiation. After digestion is complete and the nutrient absorbed by the plant, the leaf unfurls leaving the insect exoskeleton behind.

This fascinating plant is one of the most widely distributed sundews in the world. Its natural habitat includes 12 US states including Alaska and Hawaii. It has a circumboreal range, which means it can be found around the world at high latitudes. It is also found in a few southern areas like Japan, Southern Europe and California and Hawaii. William Hudson first described it in 1778.

Drosera anglica grows in open, non-forested habitats including bogs, fens and other wet calcium rich soils. It is often associated with various sphagnum mosses. The plant can grow in areas with low pH or on substrates that are live, decomposing, or dead sphagnum. Because it is carnivorous, it competes well in the low nutrient habitats getting its food from insects.

Drosera anglica is a perennial herb that flowers in summer. The white flowers have five sepals, petals, and stamens. The flowers do not need to be pollinated by insects; they set seed through self-pollination forming a black ovoid seed in a dehiscent capsule. The plant forms winter resting buds called hibernacula that unfurl after dormancy in the spring.

For More Information