Rainbow Plant – Byblis
The Rainbow plant is a beautiful and delicate carnivorous plant with elegant flowers and sparkling leaves that shimmer in the sunlight. Don’t confuse them for Sundews, though, as they are a unique species and more closely related to Butterworts, sharing similar digestive glands, and flower structure. They grow branching, narrow stems around which linear leaves protrude. Dainty flowers are sprinkled among these carnivorous tentacles – I guess the Byblis doesn’t mind munching on its pollinators.
Conveniently, there are also seven documented species – one for every color of the rainbow!
Biology of a Rainbow Plant
The leaves have two distinct types of glands – one that secrets a shimmering glue to lure and ensnare insects. Mosquito and gnats don’t stand a chance – they land on a droplet, expecting a tasty snack, but instead get stuck. As they struggle, they come into contact with more glue, and eventually die from exhaustion or suffocation. At this point, the second digestive glands comes into play. These sessile digestive glands are scattered along, and lay flat against, the leaf surface. Like with most carnivorous plants, the digestive enzymes dissolve the insect’s soft tissues.
There’s also a suspected symbiotic relationship at play with Rainbow plants. Similar to the Dewy Pine, Byblis plays host to assassin bugs, which seem immune to the sticky secretion. The plant reels in the prey, the assassin bug eats it, poops on and around the plant, and the plant absorbs the nutrients from this secretion. Yum!
Sub-soil biology and requirements
Rainbow plants have narrow stems that can branch and vine along the ground with certain species. Some Byblis are perennial, thriving for years-to-decades, while others are annual species, dying back each season. Size varies from 1-2 foot bushes of sticky insect nightmare glue to dainty wisps of unsuspecting death. If you’re a bug, don’t worry – you’re doomed either way.
Sprinkled among the carnivorous leaves of Byblis, you’ll find beautiful flowers of white or pink. The flowers of B. aquatica and B. liniflora frequently self-pollinate upon closing, but it never hurts to tease them with a paintbrush to assure solid seed set. Seed pods will brown and split open with around two dozen seeds within a few weeks.
Most Byblis species need more coaxing, requiring pollen to by crossed with the flower of a different plant that is also a genetic clone. This conjures deep philosophical questions – like if you pollinate your clone, can that be considered self-pollination? Is your offspring also your niece/nephew? If your clone clones itself, is that clone your sibling? These are the things keep me up at night, folks. But I digress. If you have two seed-grown plants from the same parent, you can cross-pollinate these.
Almost all Byblis have fascinating germination requirements, involving fire – see below for Byblis seed germination techniques.
Where to find Rainbow Plants in the wild
Byblis are native to southwestern Australia, and the tropical regions of northern Australia and southern New Guinea. Due to the conditions of their natural habitats, and the seasonal fires that sweep the areas, many rainbow plant species actually require fire for their seeds to germinate. More on that, below under the “Seed” section. Do your part to preserve these wonderful plants in the wild by purchasing from reputable retailers who cultivate in greenhouses.