Carnivorous Plants of SA: Drosera – Photographing & Identifying

The Venus Fly Trap or perhaps a Pitcher-Plant might be the typical images conjured up when considering carnivorous plants. However there are over 500 species of carnivorous plants worldwide to choose from. If you keep an eye out during the cooler months in SA and you might find any of the 21 species of local carnivorous plants, including several that are endemic to SA.


In SA there are two Genera of carnivorous plants. The Sundews (Genus Drosera), which include over 190 species worldwide, with 13 of these present in SA, and the Bladderworts (Genus Utricularia), which include over 200 species worldwide with 8 of these present in SA.


Sundews are perennial herbaceous plants that grow as prostrate or upright rosettes with stalked mucilaginous glands covering their leaf surfaces that ensnare and digest Insects. They are commonly found in mineral poor soils and use the captured Insects to provide the nutrients the soils lack.


Bladderworts are carnivorous plants that grow in wet soils or aquatic environments. The Plants grow primarily underground producing stolons with attached ‘vacuum-driven bladder traps’ that draw in prey to provide them with nutrients that the soils lack. The flower is the only part of the Plant that is visible above the soil.


In SA there are also several Plant Genera that are considered ‘proto-carnivorous’. The Triggerplants (Genus Stylidium) and closely related Styleworts (Genus Levenhookia). These may have glandular trichomes on their sepals, leaves, flower parts, or scapes that can trap small Insects, but it is as yet uncertain as to the primary reason for this function. As such they are not included in the list below.


The section below presents each of the 13 local Sundew species and provides recommendations of how these should be photographed to ensure the necessary features are captured to allow for a species level ID.


Drosera species

If you wish to go straight to the source of the information, see the Droseraceae section of the 5th Edition of the Flora of South Australia. If you are unfamiliar with the Drosera species in SA, this provides an overview including drawings of the parts of the Plants and photos of each, which can help to provide an idea of what to look out for when searching for these. The descriptions for each species may suit those more familiar with botanical terminology. The key provided is primarily based on traits that, as luck would have it, are visible in photographs. This means provided the right set of photographs is taken, a species level ID is frequently possible.

Since publishing in 2011 the document above has been superseded in part by newer treatments of those species in the Peltata complex in the last few steps of the key (R. P. Gibson 2012 & Miguel F. de Salas 2018)


The order species are shown below is based on the number of iNat records of each, so more commonly seen species are earlier in the list.


Drosera whittakeri (Whittaker’s Sundew)

SeedsSA Species Page
iNaturalist Observations in SA

Recommended Photos: Whole plant from above, if flowering ensure leaves are visible.
Tips: Common in Southern Lofty and Fleurieu Peninsula. Leaves with wide ribbed petioles. Flowers produced after leaves. Multiple flowers may open at once. Quite variable even within a single population, with some showing similarities to D. schmutzii and D. aberrans.

Typical form: (1)
Local iNat discussions: (1) (2) (3) (4)
Variations, abnormalities, and extreme forms : (Long stems) (Frozen) (Feeding) (Glabrous morph) (Broad petals) (Robust) (Abnormal petals) (Glands only on margins) (Drosera aff. schmutzii)

Climbing Sundew (Drosera macrantha ssp. planchonii / Drosera planchonii)

SeedsSA Species Page
iNaturalist Observations in SA

Recommended Photos: Whole plant, close up of leaf lamina.
Tips: Trailing or climbing growth habit unlike other local Drosera, leaf lamina orbicular, white flowers. iNat naming convention follows Plants of the World Online, so within iNat this is Drosera planchonii.

Typical form: (1)
Local iNat discussions: (1) (2)

Drosera auriculata (Tall Sundew)

SeedsSA Species Page
iNaturalist Observations in SA

Recommended Photos: Whole plant from the side showing the upright form, close-up of the flowers, sepals and leaves.
Tips: May or may not form a rosette of leaves at ground level. Cannot ID from rosette alone. Glabrous sepals, leaf lamina crescent shaped, generally pink flowers.

Typical form: (1)
Local iNat discussions: (1) (2) (3) (4)

Drosera glanduligera (Scarlet Sundew)

SeedsSA Species Page
iNaturalist Observations in SA

Recommended Photos: Whole plant from above, if flowering ensure leaves are visible.
Tips: One of the smaller Drosera, distinct orange flower, rosette leaf lamina spathulate (whereas the similar D. pygmaea has orbicular lamina)

Typical form: (1)

Drosera gunniana

iNaturalist Observations in SA

Recommended Photos: Whole plant from the side showing the upright form, close-up of the flowers, sepals and leaves.
Tips: Similar to D. auriculata with leaf lamina crescent shaped but hairy sepals. A taller single stemmed version of D. hookeri.

Typical form: (1)
Local iNat discussions: (1) (2) (3) (4)

Drosera praefolia (Early Sundew)

SeedsSA Species Page
iNaturalist Observations in SA

Recommended Photos: Flowers, whole plant.
Tips: Flowers occur before any leaves, but doesn’t always flower. Look for finished flower stalks protruding from under the leaves. Similar to D. whittakeri but with narrower & smoother petioles.

Typical form: (1)
Local iNat discussions: (1)

Tiny Sundew (Drosera pygmaea)

SeedsSA Species Page
iNaturalist Observations in SA

Recommended Photos: Whole plant from above.
Tips: The smallest local species, no bigger than a thumbnail. Leaf lamina orbicular.

Typical form: (1)

Drosera hookeri (Hooker’s Sundew)

SeedsSA Species Page
iNaturalist Observations in SA

Recommended Photos: Whole plant from the side showing the upright form, close-up of the sepals and leaves.
Tips: Difficult to ID from leaf rosette alone. Upright growth typically multiple stems with ‘shrubby’ appearance, often more yellow than D. auriculata. Leaf lamina crescent shaped. Sepals hairy.

Typical form: (1)
Local iNat discussions: (1)

Drosera aberrans (Scented Sundew)

SeedsSA Species Page
iNaturalist Observations in SA

Recommended Photos: Whole plant from above and wider angle showing colony forming habit.
Tips: These can at times look like Drosera whittakeri where their distributions overlap. Keep an eye out for narrow petioles and clonal / stoloniferous colony forming habit.

Typical form: (1)
Local iNat discussions: (1) (2)

Drosera schmutzii (Schmutz’s Sundew)

SeedsSA Species Page
iNaturalist Observations in SA

Recommended Photos: Whole plant from above, if flowering ensure leaves are visible.
Tips: Kangaroo Island endemic. Similar to D. whittakeri but with narrow petioles and narrowly-spathulate leaves. Doesn’t form clonal colonies like D. aberrans (but can grow in groups).

Typical form: (1)
Local iNat discussions: (1)

Drosera binata (Forked Sundew)

SeedsSA Species Page
iNaturalist Observations in SA

Recommended Photos: Whole plant showing long dividing leaves.
Tips: Quite distinct form, similar to D. finlaysoniana but with leaves dividing, distributions do not overlap.

Typical form: (1)

Drosera peltata / Drosera gracilis

SeedsSA Species Page
iNaturalist Observations in SA

Recommended Photos: Whole plant from the side showing the upright form especially the upper sections, sepals and leaf lamina.
Tips: Similar to other tall varieties with leaf lamina crescent shaped. Differs from D. gunniana in that it has a tall leafless inflorescence and is frequently a reddish colour with contrasting green sepals. Uncertainty exists as to what degree D. gracilis differs from D. peltata and whether it is considered synonymous.

Typical form: (1)

Drosera finlaysoniana (Flycatcher)

SeedsSA Species Page
iNaturalist Observations in SA

Recommended Photos: Whole plant showing long leaf form.
Tips: Quite distinct form, mostly Northern SA, similar to D. binata but without dividing leaves, distributions do not overlap.

Typical form: (1)

Drosera stricticaulis (Erect Sundew)

SeedsSA Species Page
iNaturalist Observations in SA

Recommended Photos: Whole plant from the side showing the upright form, close-up of the flowers, sepals and leaves.
Tips: Similar to D. planchonii with orbicular leaf lamina, but with erect upright form and pink flowers, southern Eyre Peninsula only.

Typical form: (1)

While recording Sundews, don’t forget to keep an eye out for the tiny Sundew Bugs (Setocoris sp.) that traverse the Sundews without getting trapped!

(The above info is quite generalised and only applicable to observations made in SA. If you encounter any issues/errors, please let me know).