Drosera gigantea is the giant sundew – for excellent reason. This erect perennial tuberous sundew is one of the largest ‘dews around, growing up to 3 feet (0.9 m) in height. Not only is it tall, but it branches, sending out lateral stalks that make it look like a carnivorous tree. Neat.
Drosera gigantea hails from Western Australia where it finds comfort in sandy soils along the outskirts of swamps and the granite outcrops of the Western Australian coast. These outcrops occur south of Geraldton down through Albany and are granite monoliths that rise from the surrounding environment resulting in microhabitats great for D. gigantea.
John Lindley first described Drosera gigantea in his 1839 A sketch of the vegetation of the Swan River Colony. More recently, in 1992, Allen Lowrie and N. G. Marchant described a subspecies named D. gigantea subsp. geniculata growing south of Perth in black sandy soils. At 1.5 feet tall (0.45 m), it’s a miniature version of our full sized D. gigantea. This allocation of subspecies caused a stir, and Jan Schlauer asserted that the rank of subspecies should be reserved where allopatric (geographically isolated) speciation occurs. Simply put, imagine if plants with a close common ancestor are separated for thousand of years and start to diverge in characteristics. In 1996, Schlauer published a combination of the taxon at the rank of variety (used if the taxon is seen throughout the geographic range of the species) in an issue of the Carnivorous Plant Newsletter. Some still disagree, and there isn’t a clear victor in the debate of subspecies versus variety.
Unique biology of Drosera gigantea
Some say Drosera gigantea‘s leaves are shaped like small shields. I think they look like baseball gloves. Baseball gloves with tentacles. Tentacles are longer along the outer edges of the leaves and, when prey is caught, their movement can be dramatic. Tentacle will fold in on the meal to maximize contact, much like a baseball glove folds in when cradling a baseball. Click through the gallery above to see progression of prey being caught.
Other notable characteristics
Drosera gigantea prefers humid, damp conditions and will do well in greenhouses where they have room to stretch towards that peak heigh. The plant is simple to care for, and if you give it lots of love, it will produce flowers between August and November.
Tubers on D. gigantea can stretch about a meter below ground are about 1.5 inches (3.8 cm) in diameter – so give them large, deep pots for healthiest growth.
You'll fall in love with the heart-leafed sundew, Drosera schizandra! That is, if you can figure out how to keep it happy... It is a beautiful and unusual specimen, and one of the few carnivorous plants that grows on the rainforest floor!
I'm not sure why this sundew isn't more common in collections; it's literally named for its spectacular ability to proliferate. Along with Drosera adelae and Drosera schizandra, it is one of the “Three Sisters from Queensland” as coined by Peter D'Amato in The Savage Garden.
I've heard Drosera filiformis referred to as nature's anti-aircraft gun for its ability to snipe flying insects out of the air. It's more commonly called the thread-leaved sundew due to its slender, filamentous leaves that reach towards the sky in an effort to tempt low-altitude insects into taking a detour to Sticky Town.
Drosera capensis 'Narrow Leaf' This is your typical "common" capensis. Drosera capensis 'Narrow Leaf' is an incredibly hearty sundew that I have found hard to kill even through repeated neglect. That said, it's a [...]
A monster of a forked sundew, D. binata dichotoma 'Giant' generates forked sundew leaves up to two feet long with four to twelve forks. Since individual leaves fan out from the central growth point, you can end up with 4 foot sundews!
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