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Pink Sundew
Drosera capillaris
pink sundew
Pink sundew, photographed at Atlantic Ridge Preserve State Park, Stuart, Martin County, in May 2015.
pink sundew

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 official 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.

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 imperiled.

pink sundew

Pink sundew itself is small, ground-hugging and not very 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 short spike that might double the height of the plant. The flowers are small but a pretty pink and the inspiration for 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.

Photographs by David Sedore
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Unless otherwise stated, all photographs are property of the publishers and may not be used without their express permission.