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.