10 June 2012

A sundew makes a hasty retreat

I'm not yet ready to send out the heralds and call this a success on my first go at cultivating tuberous sundews, but I'm closer now than I was before. If you recall, I originally purchased a lovely specimen of Drosera peltata from California Carnivores in January 2012 and first posted about it in March. It started out as a cute little rosette of carnivorous leaves, then bolted to produce two lovely 6-inch tall stems bearing those irresistible peltate leaves. And then throughout the last few months it was happily going about the business of, well, what sundews do best: capturing prey to collect nutrients.

Most of the tuberous sundews are native to Australia where the winter is rainy and the summer is hot and dry as a bone. This lineage of sundews has evolved the handy adaptation of giving up trying to survive as a full-fledged leafy herb during that hot, dry, unforgiving summer. Instead, they retreat into the soil, packing up their nutrients into root structures called tubers, not unlike a potato in many ways though much smaller.

In just the last few weeks as we approach the hottest late May and early June weather in the Northern Hemisphere here in Ohio, this particular specimen I had was finally ready to make its scheduled retreat. The leaves and stem quickly browned from the tips in a matter of days, my cue to stop watering and let the soil go bone dry lest the tubers succumb to rot as they form. And then, a few weeks later, out of curiosity and because I knew the soil surface in the pot was much too hard for the new growth to break through next year, I dug through the soil to find the tiny tubers:

Those little cream-colored pearls are definitely not perlite! A closer look:

In the above photo, the two tubers toward the top were still attached to the root, the dark brown object leading from center to the bottom right. It was a bumper crop! After sifting through the remainder of the soil, I found ten tubers in all:

The next challenge will be keeping them in a nice, dark place until next fall when they begin to stir. I think the hardest part will be remembering that I have them stuffed away somewhere!

And also, thanks to my friends at Botanical Oddities, I now have tubers from Drosera auriculata. Thanks, guys! Here's hoping I have success with both as I imagine the difficulties of growing tuberous sundews arise when preparing the new soil mix - the sand can't be too sharp or the new growth will be torn up on its several inch ascent from below. It will, at least, be a fun challenge.

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