The Carlisle Mosquito Online

Friday, September 16, 2005


Spoon-leaved sundew

Spoon-leaved sundew plant (Photo by Kay Fairweather)
Name: Drosera intermedia or spoon-leaved sundew or spatulate-leaved sundew or maybe even Audrey. The plant has some notoriety since it is carnivorous. It is native to eastern North America.

When and where seen: Steve Tobin first brought these plants to my attention. He was in an area where the Greenough land borders the Great Meadows Wildlife Refuge looking for a less arduous route to carry in materials for a new boardwalk on one of the trails. This was at the beginning of August when the plants were flowering. Tom Brownrigg also found a patch of them in the same general area — maybe the same patch — and took me to see them. This was a month later and they had finished flowering.

Distinguishing characteristics: The leaves of the sundew are covered with red hairs that stand erect on the leaf. At the tip of each hair is a drop of a sticky substance looking like a tiny dewdrop. The leaves are arranged in a whorl around the central point where the flower stalk comes up. The diameter of the whorl is no more than three inches. The smooth underside of the leaves is very close to the ground and the hairy side faces upwards giving the plant a red appearance. It is the redness that catches your eye when you are looking for them. The spoon-leaved sundew is most easily differentiated from other sundews by the shape of the leaf. Prior to this, I had only ever seen the round-leaved sundew — not in Carlisle but in a bog in Lincoln. Its leaves are decidedly round — like a shallow bowl. The one I have yet to see is the thread-leaved sundew which has long skinny leaves where the leaf stalk is not distinct from the leaf. The leaves are like hairy pieces of string and can be ten inches long.

The little tiny shop of horrors: The hairs on the sundew leaves are covered with glands that exude a 'glue' which detains the hapless insect while the surrounding hairs bend over to create a sticky cage. The glands also exude digestive juices that allow the plant to absorb nutrients from the insect. If these plants were large there would have been no need for the Great Meadows Wildlife Refuge to ban dogs, but the plants are very small and only the tiniest of insects lack the strength to pull free. We saw gnats or midges in the clutches of some of the plants. In the lower right of the photo you can see the smooth underside of a leaf that has curled up to better contain its prey.

Habitat: Sundews usually grow in bogs. These ones, at least at this time of year, were in rather dry ground. The plants are somewhat less dependent on the soil as a source of certain nutritional elements than plants which don't eat insects.

References: Carol H. Woodward and H. W. Rickett, New York Botanical Garden's Field Guide to Common Wildflowers of the Northeastern United States; Connecticut Botanical Society at

Update on the Blanding's turtle

Blandings turtle (Photo by Tom Brownrigg)

Nancy Weiss who found the rare Blanding's turtle laying eggs in her yard on June 26, had been watching the nest lately hoping to see the hatchlings. She was rewarded on Labor Day when eight healthy little turtles emerged from the nest. The clutch of 13 eggs, which is the average count for a Blanding's turtle, had a 61% hatch rate, much better than the average 40%. The baby turtles are now under the care of the Natural Heritage Endangered Species Program in Westboro where they will be protected for about two years. Eight radio-tagged turtles will be returned to Carlisle - some from this hatch and some from a different gene pool.

Update: Chicken of the Woods

This big orange-yellow mushroom was the subject of the Biodiversity Corner two weeks ago. Anyone who drives Stearns Street will be able to see this handsome chicken on a 15-foot tall stump at the side of the road. It is on your left if you are heading south/west on Stearns Street away from Bedford Road. I don't believe it will have crossed the road.

2005 The Carlisle Mosquito