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Carnivorous plants: Drosera
The genus Drosera has about one hundred and fifty species of carnivorous plants, spread practically all over the globe; most species, however, are native to Australia and southern Africa; as with all carnivores, these are plants that in nature live in marshy areas or peat bogs, characterized by high soil and air humidity, and by a low amount of mineral salts dissolved in the soil. The most widespread species in cultivation, and most easily found in nurseries, is Drosera capensis, native, as the name suggests, of southern Africa.
All species form a dense rosette of leaves, which have a linear or spatula shape, more or less enlarged, and a light green or reddish color. The entire surface of the leaves is covered with a thin red hair: at the apex of each small hair (which functions as a tentacle) is a small droplet of a transparent adhesive substance, which serves to trap the preys, is clearly visible. When to a leaf of sundew an insect rests, it remains stuck to the glue present on the leaf, which is rolled up, in order to bring the prey towards the base of the leaves, where there are hairs equipped with droplets of a digestive enzyme; after having "eaten" the insect, the leaf unrolls, returning to its original position. It may happen that the drosera catch larger prey than usual, in this case, the leaf that has trapped them, usually dries up after the insect has been digested.
In spring between the leaves stands a thin stem, which bears large flowers with five petals, very decorative.
Cultivate the sundew
There are many varieties of drosera, many of which are used to living in a shady environment, away from direct sunlight; drosera capensis, and some other species instead prefer the sunny and very bright locations; when buying a sundew let us know immediately about the species, so as to know the lighting needs, which are fundamental for the development and health of the plant.
As with most carnivorous plants, even the drosera are used to living in peat bogs and marshes, with a soil very poor in mineral salts, and a constant very high humidity; to cultivate the sundries then place them in a soil consisting exclusively of peat, mixed with little sand or perlite, to prevent the water from allowing the roots to breathe.
In any case we avoid the use of ready-made soil, such as universal soil, these soils contain a good amount of nitrogen, which is deadly for carnivorous plants, even if in low concentrations. In fact these plants get the nitrogen they need from the prey they catch, and they are used to living in areas completely free of mineral salts dissolved in the soil; contrary to what happens to other plants, therefore, for carnivorous plants fertilization can be a fatal operation, which leads to the complete drying out of the entire leaf apparatus.
The drosera that are commonly found in nurseries are not cold-resistant, so these plants are cultivated in cold greenhouses, or in any case in a cold place, where, however, temperatures never descend below 5 ° C, on pain of loss of foliage , and sometimes even of the entire plant.
Instead, they require constant humidity, and they are usually placed in low trays, or bowls, filled with peat and sand, placed in large and capacious saucers, in which about 2-3 cm of water are kept, constantly, for throughout the year, so as to imitate as closely as possible a humid environment. We avoid growing potted carnivores, unless you have a closed terrarium, where humidity and temperature can be controlled.
Watering should be provided often and regularly, preventing the ground from drying out completely; to avoid weighing down the soil with mineral salts, thus undermining the health of the plant, it is advisable to water the drosera using demineralized water.
The drosera in herbal medicine
Drosere are plants also used in folk medicine and herbal medicine; in particular it contains active ingredients used for sedating, calming and treating cough, even severe and convulsive forms of cough, even in children.
It is also used in cases of asthma, and to calm the symptoms of various diseases of the respiratory system.
In particular, the herbal tincture of drosera is used in herbal medicine and homeopathy, prepared by macerating the whole plant, leaves, flowers and roots; or if they are used small dried plants (whole) to prepare herbal teas.
In the foliage and in the roots there are other quantities of flavonoids, mixed with naphthoquinones, of the glucosides also present in other plants.
The properties of the drosera, from a scientific point of view, are anti-inflammatory and sedative of the smooth muscles, therefore it is used against cough as a sedative of the musculature that is used in the act of coughing.
Propagate the sundries
Even when grown in pots, the sundas tend to bloom easily; the flowers are self-pollinating, so even with a single plant and a single flower it is possible to obtain small fertile seeds. The seeds of sundew can be scattered simply in the bowl that contains the plant that has flowered, or placed on the surface of a special seed bed, which must be kept in the same condition as the mother plant, ie high humidity, good brightness and temperatures that do not fall below 5 ° C.
The sundews can also be propagated by leaf cutting, removing a healthy and luxuriant leaf, starting from the part attached to the rosette of the plant, which is often lighter than the rest of the leaf; such cuttings are placed directly in a small vase, and tend to root quickly, giving rise to a tiny rosette.
The sundew plants also tend to self propagate, producing stolons at the top of which develops a new rosette of leaves, and therefore a new plant, which can be detached from the mother plant, and repotted individually.