The first sundews of the season are back on the Dubh Lochan Trail. Here at Forsinard we love these tiny clever plants, which at the moment are smaller than the nail on your little finger - that’s about 5 mm! So if you’re thinking about going for an eye test, just come to Forsinard and if you manage to spot them you’ll get full marks from the optician!
Sundews are carnivorous plants that only grow in really poor and acidic soils, like the peatland here at Forsinard. As peat is so low in nutrients, these plants have developed a strategy to get their nutrients from a different source: insects! They have leaves with ‘hairs’ that secrete a sticky sugary liquid, this attracts and then traps insects. The insect will usually die from exhaustion or asphyxia; sundews then dissolve them and absorb their nutrients; and all this happening on a plant just a few millimetres big! Some species will also roll their leaves around their prey to dissolve it faster, amazing, isn’t it?
Just in case you’re feeling sad for the insects...most of them are midges! So yes, they deserve it, and this is one of the reasons why we love these plants at Forsinard, apart from them being so unique.
Two different species of sundew grow in this area: the great sundew (Drosera anglica), slightly larger and with long leaves, and the round-leaved sundew (Drosera rotundifolia), with rounder leaves as its name suggests.
Great sundew (Drosera anglica)
Round-leaved sundew (Drosera rotundifolia)
Amongst the peatland vegetation it’s not just the sundews that supplement their diet with insects, butterworts (Pinguicula vulgaris and P. lusitanica) have also evolved the same trick. These have a flat rosette of leaves, which are covered in glands for secreting a similar sticky, sugary liquid for trapping insects. The digestive secretion also has the side-effect of damaging the protective waxy layer on their leaf surface, which would normally be a barrier against desiccation. Butterworts therefore grow only in damp, humid places, so the bogs of Forsinard are their perfect habitat. A bit bigger than sundews, the butterworts are easier to spot along the Dubh Lochan trail, with their star-formation of lime-green leaves. And give it a few weeks and they’ll hopefully be flowering too!
Common butterwort (Pinguicula vulgaris)
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