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science

Plantwatch: England's carnivorous sundew makes a comeback


The great sundew (Drosera anglica) is a carnivorous plant with leaves covered in red tentacles that ooze sticky slime to kill and digest insects, giving the plant extra nutrition in the boglands where it grows.

It was once common in England but was almost wiped out as wetlands and peat bogs were drained or dug up, but a project is reintroducing the plant in restored bogland in north-west England, using cuttings from native plants.

Introducing foreign carnivorous plants into the wild is perilous. The pitcher plant (Sarracenia purpurea) comes from North America and uses water-filled pitchers to drown and digest its prey. It has been planted in bogs in Britain and Ireland, with some colonies growing so vigorously they smother native plants. One bog in the Lake District became so overrun that thousands of the pitcher plants had to be ripped out by hand to control the infestation.

The waterwheel plant, Aldrovanda vesiculosa, is an endangered carnivorous plant, but strangely it has somehow invaded various wetlands in north-east America and swamped native plants and killed many water creatures. Each plant grows up to 200 small underwater traps resembling a Venus flytrap, snapping shut at astonishing speed to catch and eat small creatures.



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