Beginning in late April, intrepid wildflower enthusiasts can track down threadleaf sundew in our area and this rare beauty is well worth the effort needed to find it.
Threadleaf sundew or Drosera filiformis is also commonly known as dew-thread.
Some consider the variety found in Florida to be a separated species, D. Tracyi. Other experts believe all threadlead sundews are a single species and this is supported by the fact that widely separated populations can interbreed and produce fertile offspring.
This plant occurs naturally only in wetlands. While populations are found from Nova Scotia south to Florida and along the state’s coastal plain, it is considered imperiled throughout its range. It is listed as an endangered species in Florida and is believed extinct in Rhode Island.
Like its small common cousin the sundew, threadleaf sundew is a carnivore. During the winter, the foliage shrinks back to a flat rosette but when warm weather arrives, new leaves appear. The leaves are stem-like and unroll like the fiddleheads of ferns. They are covered in tentacles coated with mucilage that ensnare insects, which are then digested. Protein obtained from feeding is stored in large roots. The leaves may be green or red and are especially beautiful when backlit, as the mucilage glistens like crystal.
In our area threadleaf sundew can flower from May through October. The five-petaled flowers are pink to pale lavender and borne on tall leafless stems.
Like most sundews, this plant is easily propagated from leaf cuttings. It can be purchased from many sources but remember, it is illegal to collect this plant in the wild. To root leaf cuttings, float them in distilled water in a small jar wrapped in plastic.
These plants prefer full sun and nutrient-free sandy soil. Never fertilize carnivorous plants.