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Saturday, June 15, 2024

Hungry Carnivorous Plants Surround Our Wetlands

Purple pitcher-plant (sarracenia purpurea) and round-leaved sundew (drosera rotundifolia)

It may surprise you to know that boggy edges of wetlands or ponds will host appropriate habitats for pitcher plants and sundews throughout our state. These types of plants are carnivorous and have adapted their leaves to attract and consume insects for nutrients.

Sweet dew drops

In the case of the sundew, the tiny tentacles have what look like dew drops at the end of each ray. The dew drops are actually a sticky, sweet substance called “mucilage.” The insects attracted to the mucilage become stuck and each tentacle slowly wraps around its prey in response.

round-leaved sundew dew drops close up
Mucilage of round-leaved sundew plant. Photo by Jennifer Correa-Kruegel.

As for pitcher plants, the leaf looks like it is holding a pitcher of water. The leaves actually contain digestive juices to consume the insects that fall into the well of the leaf.

Purple pitcher plant
Purple pitcher plant. Photo by Jennifer Correa-Kruegel.

For added measure, the leaves have tiny hair-like barbs that face down, preventing the unsuspecting insects from crawling out when they become too tired to fly.

Sometimes small frogs will take advantage of the insects attracted to the plant’s leaves and will perch on the edge for their own consumption. Unfortunately, those frogs could lose their footing and become a meal for the plant too.

Jennifer Correa-Kruegel, Warren County Naturalist
Jennifer Correa-Kruegel, Warren County Naturalist

Jennifer has a Masters in Parks and Resource Management from Slippery Rock University. She worked as a Park Naturalist for Hunterdon County Park System from 2003-2006 and then at the NJSOC full-time from 2006 - 2020, starting as the Program Coordinator and evolving to an Environmental Educator. Jen is a New Jersey native and has lived in Warren County with her family since 2004. She is excited to be offering programs to this community she has grown to love.