Large tracts of recently germinated Drosera indica spotted at Karyad Top

On the sun-kissed rocky terrains of Vagamon, hundreds of recently sprouted tiny insectivorous plants are waiting to entrap insects that fly past them.

Wildlife photographers have spotted large tracts of Drosera indica in the hilly terrains of Karyad Top, near Vagamon. Vast tracts of the recently germinated plants could be seen in the area last week, A.K. Pradeep, a wildlife enthusiast, who photographed the sprouting of the plants this season, said.

These flowering plants are commonly known as sundew as they spot drops of thick sticky liquid at the tips of their glandular hairs. Insects which cannot free themselves from the gluey drops are fed upon by the plants. The plants produce enzymes that help it to draw nutrients directly from the trapped insects, P. Sujanapal, a taxonomist at the Kerala Forest Research Institute, Peechi, Thrissur, said.

Besides Drosera indica, Drosera peltata and Drosera burmanii have been reported from the State.

Drosera indica is locally known as Kosuvetty as mosquitoes largely fall prey to the tricks of the plants. The species grows to a maximum height of three to five centimetres and dies in two to three months. However, Drosera peltata grows up to one foot tall.

The plants usually sprout in September, when the monsoon rain and the moisture-laden atmosphere give way to sunny days. The plants give up their fight for survival and wither after nearly two months when the sun becomes unendurable. Before they die, they leave small propagules in soil to sprout back to life when the weather becomes conducive.

One needs to take a close look to spot the tiny plants, which have a lifespan of barely a few months, an official of the Kerala Forest Department, who surveyed the area along with wildlife photographers last week, said.

Alteration of habitats has resulted in a drastic reduction in the population of the plants, which are highly specific to habitats. They are mostly found in laterite areas of midlands of the State where a thin film of moisture is left after the rainy season. The Drosera species are also found on rocky terrains near marshy grasslands, Dr. Sujanapal said.

Drosera peltata and Drosera indica are found at an altitude up to 2,000 metres, while Drosera burmanii can be found in altitudes up to 1,000 metres. Plants belonging to the peltata species were spotted in some areas of the Eravikulam National Park, the Anamalais, and the Nilgiris, he said.

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