Sundews (Drosera species) are little
gems with sticky leaves that catch their prey like flypaper catches
flies. A range of species exist, but some of the best for water
gardens are the North American and European species, since many
species from Australia require a dry period which might be too
tricky for a busy water gardener to supply. Among the best for
water gardens is Drosera intermedia, which often grows
in the wettest part of a bog, with its roots in several inches
of water. Drosera capillaris also grows well in these
growing in the wild on Prince Edward Island, Canada.
Butterworts (Pinguicula species)
work like the sundews, with sticky leaves, but their flowers
are generally much more decorative, resembling those of snapdragons.
Not all species are suitable for water gardens due to fussiness
about soils and moisture, but some of the best species are native
to the US Gulf Coast, like Pinguicula planifolia, with
violet blossoms, and P. lutea, with its screaming yellow
Bladderworts (Utricularia species)
exist in both aquatic and terrestrial forms. Many of these perform
nicely in a water garden, including Utricularia livida,
from South Africa, which produces light violet flowers 11 out
of 12 months of the year. Floating species native to the US and
Europe include yellow-flowered U. gibba and U. striata.
Pitcherplants (Sarracenia, Heliamphora,
Darlingtonia, Cephalotus, and Nepenthes species) fit
into three different families. The most dramatic for water gardens,
and perhaps the best adapted for constant moisture and consistently
warm temperatures, are the members of Sarracenia, native
to the US and Canada. The cobra lily, Darlingtonia californica,
flourishes if grown with its roots cool. A small floating island
in the water garden makes an ideal habitat for this species.
Rainbow Plants (Byblis species)
are native to Australia. The perennial Byblis gigantea
is inappropriate for most water gardens because it requires an
annual dry period. However, the tropical species of Byblis
from northern Australia thrive in wet spots at the edges of a
water garden. These plants work like Sundews and Butterworts,
but come from yet another family, and produce lovely flowers
-- all some variation on violet or mauve. The sun shining through
their droplets of glue creates the rainbow that gives them their
If you are interested in carnivorous plants, you can find
more information from various sources, including those listed
at the end of this article. Depending on where you live, many
of the species noted above may be hardy in your water garden.
Be sure to buy only greenhouse-grown plants, not wild-collected
ones, both because many carnivorous plants are threatened in
the wild and because the greenhouse-grown plants generally are
stronger, healthier, and better adapted to a garden setting.
The Savage Garden by Peter D'Amato
Carnivorous Plants of the US and Canada by Donald Schnell
Contact the author, a botanist
who works on carnivorous plants, for further suggestions.