Pink Sundew

Drosera capillaris

Pink Sundew

Pink sundew, photographed at Corbett Wildlife Management Area Loxahatchee, Palm Beach County, in July 2015.

This plant looks harmless enough, but it is a trap ready to spring. Pink sundew, Drosera capillaris, is a carnivorous plant that makes its living by killing and eating bugs.

Those sparkly droplets of dew — nectar to an unsuspecting insect — are really a sticky secretion that will grab and hold any multi-legged creature that climbs on to them. Ultimately, acids also secreted by the plant, will dissolve the victim into a pool of nutrients that the plant takes in.

Not the kindest way to go, but that's nature.

Anyway, pink sundew is a native of Florida found in all but four counties, according to various distribution maps. Its range extends as far north as Delaware and Maryland, and as far west as Texas. It's also found in the Caribbean, Central America and South America.

It's a moisture-loving plant, found in wet pinelands and near bogs. The plants above were found adjacent to permanent pools of water in Atlantic Ridge Preserve State Park in Stuart, Martin County.

Pink sundew, despite its broad range, is not a commonly found plant. Both Maryland and Tennessee have listed the plant as endangered. The Delray Beach-based Institute for Regional Conservation considers it rare in South Florida, but pink sundew has not yet received legal status as threatened or endangered. It has a tiny cousin, dwarf sundew, the only other member of the family found in South Florida, that is considered imperiled.

Pink sundew itself is ground-hugging and more of a deep red than it is pink. Normally, it may reach an inch or two above the ground and has a slight, spider-like sprawl to it. It flowers in the spring, sending up a spike that might reach a foot or so off the ground. The flowers are small but a pretty pink and the inspiration for that part of the name. Pink sundew is a perennial.

It is cultivated, used in restorations. We can see where its deep-red leaves and stems would add considerable interest to a wet garden. The Seminoles used the sticky secretions as an ointment for ringworm.

Pink sundew is a member of Droseraceae, the sundew family. There are about 100 members of the family worldwide, five of which are found in Florida, two in South Florida. There are some Droseraceae species found as far north as Canada.

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Published by Wild South Florida, PO Box 7241, Delray Beach, FL 33482.

Photographs by David Sedore. Photographs are property of the publishers and may not be used without permission.