Miscellaneous - Sounds Wild


Download Episode: Sundew (MP3 file 2,347 kB)



On a sunny spring morning, the snow has finally melted from an Alaska muskeg, and the spongey green meadow is warming in the sunlight. Insects are beginning to buzz and flit, and an insect predator is here, silently hunting. Trapping is a more accurate term. Although this is a life and death drama playing out on the surface of this soggy meadow, it's a subtle one. The hunter is a sundew, the only carnivorous plant in Alaska.

There are about fifty carnivorous plants in the world, and two species are found in Alaska, the roundleaf and the narrowleaf sundews. They're found throughout the state in poorly drained areas like fens, wet meadows and muskegs, where plants have adapted to nutrient poor soil, or developed ways to supplement their nutritional needs. Alaskans hiking through such areas have likely stepped on or over these sundews. A close look at the moss and vegetation underfoot would reveal a low-growing, palm-size plant with fingernail-size leaves. Each leaf is covered with tiny hairs, glands actually, each secreting a shiny, sweet droplet of goo that attracts and traps gnats and mosquitoes. Once stuck to the gluey leaf, the insect's body is absorbed into the plant.