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What is a Sundew?

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  • Written By: Anna T.
  • Edited By: Melissa Wiley
  • Last Modified Date: 25 August 2016
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A sundew is a type of plant that eats insects, which are also occasionally referred to as insectivores. There are hundreds of varieties of this type of plant worldwide, and they are all unique aside from the fact that they catch insects. Sundews will eat any type of insect that is unlucky enough to get trapped by the sticky hairs on each stem, but smaller plants tend to eat smaller insects, while larger plants often eat larger insects. After the insect has been trapped by the sticky hairs, the plant's leaves close over it, and the insect is dissolved by secreted digestive enzymes.

The sundew is widely distributed, and there are several varieties native to almost every continent on earth. They are usually found growing wild in swampy and marshy areas. Most sundews normally do not exceed 12 inches (30 cm) in height, but there are a few types that may grow large enough to resemble a small bush. Depending on the type of sundew, the leaves could be either long and slender, oval shaped, or circular. During the summer, these plants often produce brightly colored flowers that typically range in shade from purple to red or pink.

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In most cases, sundews grow well in hot, humid climates. If they are planted in areas that have harsh winters, it may be necessary for a person to either bring the plant inside or cover it with plastic on days the temperature drops below 40 degrees Fahrenheit (4 degrees Celsius). When planting a sundew, areas that get at least six hours of full sun every day are usually considered the best. These plants also prefer very wet, soggy soil, so daily watering is important. People who keep sundews indoors can usually keep a pan full of water underneath the pot and refill it as needed.

Unlike most other plants, a sundew does not need to be grown in fertilized soil. Almost all of its nutritional needs are met by the insects it captures. Growing a sundew in a bright area with soggy, unfertilized soil is typically all that is needed to keep it thriving. Some sundew plants go dormant in the winter and come back in the spring, but it is still important to provide water during this time. When a sundew is kept inside, a person may need to occasionally feed it insects because it may not be able to catch as many indoors as it can outdoors.

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