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Drosophyllum lusitanicum, known as dewy pine or Portuguese sundew, is the only member of the genus Drosophyllum.  This perennial insectivorous plant is unusual in that it grows under far drier conditions than other carnivorous plants.  Endemic to the Mediterranean climes of Portugal, Spain and Morocco, it inhabits low-nutrient, slightly acidic soils.  Portuguese sundew grows as a low shrub (up to 1.5 meters) close to the coast, where during dry summers it can capture moisture from morning fogs and dew on its long, thin, triangular leaves (Gonçalves and Romano 2005; Botanical Society of America).

This carnivore captures its insect prey using two types of glands on the leaves.  Stalked glands produce adhesive mucus that, like fly paper, binds insect visitors.  This prodigiously produced mucus has a sweet scent to attract prey, and gives the plant its Portuguese name “slobbering pine.”  Smaller digestive glands produce substances that rapidly (within several days) break down the trapped prey (Flísek and Pásek 2001).

Yellow flowers up to 4 cm in diameter bloom between February and May, in groups of 3-15 flowers.  They can self-pollinate.  The resulting seedpods hold 3-10 seeds; seedlings flower the second year after germination. 

On the Iberian Peninsula and in Morocco, Portuguese sundew grows in small, isolated populations.  Its environment is heavily impacted by human activity and it is rare to endangered along its range.  Until recently this plant could only be propagated from seed.  Studies now are focused to develop in vitro propagation methods in order to preserve this species and reintroduce it to its native range.  Drosophyllum lusitanicum is also known for chemical extracts that have been used in traditional medicine for anti-tumor properties and as an antibiotic, insecticide and contraceptive (Gonçalves and Romano 2005, 2007).  A sought-after plant, Portuguese sundew is popular among collectors.  It is difficult to grow and maintain, due to slow germination rates and sensitivity to transplantation and root rot (Cahill). 


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© Dana Campbell

Supplier: Dana Campbell

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