Dewy Pine – Drosophyllum lusitanicum
What image does the name Dewy Pine (Drosophyllum lusitanicum) conjure? If you imagined the obvious – a small, dew-covered pine tree, you’d have a solid idea how Drosophyllum lusitanicum looks. The Dewy Pine’s carnivorous leaves look like pine needles slathered in tiny drops of sweet-smelling dew. As old carnivorous leaves die back, they produce a branching stem that looks like the woody stem of a small tree. Don’t let the unassuming looks fool you. Like other sticky carnivorous plants, Sundews, Butterworts and Rainbow plants, the Dewy Pine is a voracious hunter. Unlike its sticky cousins, dew drops smell like sweet honey, and actually detach from the plant as an insect comes into contact with them. More details on that, below. Drosophyllum lusitanicum is the only species in its genus. It’s a curious plant and you may be surprised to learn that, on a genetic level, Dewy Pines are more closely related to Nepenthes and even Triphyophyllum (the on-again, off-again carnivorous plant) than other, more analogously dewed carnivorous plants.
Biology of a Dewy Pine
The leaves of Drosophyllum lusitanicum are thin and range from 8 to 10 inches in length. They are lined with hair-like, red-tinted glands. This is where the “dewy” is secreted. Each drop of glue catches sunlight, sparkling like a leaf after a brisk morning dew. The dew drop itself acts as a magnifying glass for the red coloring of the gland beneath it. The part that is most irresistible to unsuspecting insects? -The plant smells of sweet honey. When an insect comes into contact with the dew mucilage, the droplet sticks to it and detaches from the plant. As the insect struggles to free itself of the glue, it comes into contact with more glands, and gets further coated. Eventually, breathing holes get covered and the insect suffocates, dying on a leaf. Sessile glands along the linear leaves secrete digestive enzymes that work to liquify the insect’s soft tissues. The insect soup drips down the leaf and gets absorbed by the Dewy Pine.
Sub-soil biology & requirements
Dewy Pines grow in dry, sandy soil. They maintain relatively shallow roots and are naturally found on hills among sandy gravel in-between boulders where they can catch the most runoff rainwater. Soil is preferred drier than most other carnivorous plants, so avoid the water tray method and allow for drainage. In fact, they handle hot summer temperatures above 100° Fahrenheit just fine. Even though Dewy Pine growth will slow during winter months, they do not have a true winter dormancy. During this time, you can let soil remain damp for a few days, but allow it to dry before the next heavy watering. Winter months are a bit cooler for Drosophyllum, with brief freezes down into the 20°s F. Just make sure this isn’t the norm, or the plants will be unhappy. Over time, the plant will produce offshoots from the main stem resulting in a scraggly carnivorous bush.
Dewy Pine flowers are bright yellow, and like Byblis, even the flower stalks appear to have carnivorous tendencies. The flowers show up around spring time and scatter ripened seeds in the summer. They self-pollinate upon closing, but for best seed set, use a small paint brush to tease the flower and transfer ample pollen to the stamen. After a few weeks, cone-shaped seed pods will ripens and crack open. Seeds are large and black and can be stored in the refrigerator until autumn. More on germination techniques at the bottom of this page. Dry soil is no place for seeds to germinate, so they lie in wait until winter months bring the rain needed to safely sprout. They quickly send roots into the sandy soil, establishing a foundation upon which rapid early growth occurs. Fully mature foliage appears within a few months of sprouting.
Where to find Dewy Pines in the wild
You can find this unique carnivorous plant in the gravely soils, dry hills, and Mediterranean climates of southern Spain, coastal Portugal, and northern Morocco.