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Another Native Oregon Sundew: The Debut of Drosera anglica

September 6, 2011, 5:43

We were camped at Gold Lake, a year-round recreation area situated at about 5,800 feet in Oregon’s well-known Willamette Pass. It was the first day of the holiday weekend and of course, we were lost. Again.

Our mission you ask? To find and document native populations of Drosera anglica, Drosera rotundifolia, and possibly Pinguicula vulgaris that I had learned about in passing conversation a couple of weeks prior. The source was reliable (some might say an expert), but in my excitement to learn of another local community of carnivorous plants, I completely forgot to ask for details about the location. And this is how my S.O. and I found ourselves bush whacking through the forested banks of Gold Lake as dusk neared on the first day of our “vacation.”

Now, I’m all for back country adventure and all that other good stuff, but given the fact that plants in the Drosera family are small (typically rising only inches off the ground) I felt that our cross-country undertaking was leading us nowhere but in the wrong direction. You can imagine my relief when after navigating freezing-cold mountain streams, climbing over numerous fallen trees, and wading through chest-high grass, the landscape opened up and I found the first Drosera anglica; it was one of what would turn out to be a community of literally millions of plants.

Also known as the English sundew, Drosera anglica is a "circumboreal" species, meaning it is found at high latitudes world-wide.

Right away I noticed two key differences between Drosera anglica and Drosera rotundifolia: D. rotundifolia has round, spatulate laminae (leaf-like structures), while D. anglica bears flat, elongated laminae that are attached to long petioles (leaf stems), which make them a more erect species.

D. anglica secretes a sweet scent to attract its prey. Once contact is made, D. anglica responds by quickly bending its tentacles toward the prey, a phenomenon known as "thigmotropism." The prey may become further ensnared by the lamina curling around it, but this movement takes much longer.

Observation also showed that D. rotundifolia at the site was growing in dense clusters. Although the D. anglica did grow close to each other, I would not define them as “dense.” However, both species did grow in similar places along the edges of knolls in the wet, peaty area.

Drosera species enjoy bogs, fens, swamps and marshes, and are often found in association with sphagnum moss.

Unfortunately, as I began to survey the area, I noticed that unlike the D. rotundifolia in the Santiam Pass that were just entering their reproductive cycle, these plants were at the end of it. Almost all of the plants exhibited dewless, receding pads and displayed the tall remains of their inflorescences (flowers), which had now matured into dried capsules full of seeds.

D. anglica's flowers stand tall above its sticky pads although this species exclusively self-pollinates.

Even though the plants were all well past their peak, and although I was unable to find any species of Pinguicula on this trip, I am still pleased with the outcome. Hiking into these sites looking for Drosera has given me an opportunity to not only learn about the plants I enjoy so much, but to also learn about the ecology of our local habitats. Observing how these species interact with animals, as well as other plants and mosses around them, has helped me understand and appreciate their carnivorous specificity even more. Through research, I have also located two other sites in Oregon that host native populations of Drosera, as well a Darlingtonia Californica site. I’m guessing we have about three weeks of outdoor weather left this season, where should I go next?

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