[BoDD logo]


Google uses cookies
to display context-
sensitive ads on this
page. Learn how to
manage Google cookies
by visiting the

Google Technologies Centre

 ▼ ▼ ▼ ▼ ▼ ▼ ▼


 ▲ ▲ ▲ ▲ ▲ ▲ ▲

[BBEdit logo]




(Sundew family)


This family of insectivorous plants comprises some 105 species in 4 genera. Drosera L., the largest genus, is represented in many temperate and tropical regions of the world, notably in Australia, New Zealand, and South Africa. These plants are usually found in acid bogs. The other 3 genera are monotypic. Aldrovanda vesiculosa L. is a free floating aquatic plant which is found in still fresh water, and ranges from central Europe through to eastern and south-eastern Asia and northern Australia. Dionaea muscipula Ellis occurs naturally only in a small region of south-eastern USA, whilst Drosophyllum lusitanicum Link occurs naturally only in Portugal, southern Spain, and Morocco.

These plants are becoming increasingly popular as house and greenhouse plants because of their fascinating ability to trap and digest insects in order to supplement their nutrient intake.

An alcoholic extract of Drosera rotundifolia L., and possibly other similar species, has been used in Europe as a herbal remedy for cough (Fl├╝ck 1973, Todd 1967).

The crushed leaves of Drosera L. species have been described as rubefacient and vesicant. The skin irritant activity may be attributable to plumbagin and related naphthoquinones. There is also a theoretical risk of dermatitis caused by the proteolytic enzymes secreted by these plants in order to digest their prey.

Aldrovanda vesiculosa L.
Waterwheel Plant


Dionaea muscipula Ellis
Venus' Fly Trap


Drosophyllum lusitanicum Link
Portugese Sundew

These species have been reported to contain plumbagin, a naphthoquinone which produces vesication on skin contact (Thomson 1971).

Drosera L.

The following species have been reported to contain plumbagin (Krishnamoorthy & Thomson 1969, Zenk et al. 1969, Thomson 1971):

Drosera anglica Huds.
Drosera auriculata Backh.
Drosera binata Labill.
[syn. Drosera dichotoma Banks & Sol.]
Drosera capensis L.
Drosera cistiflora L.
Drosera indica L.
Drosera intermedia Hayne
Drosera longifolia L.
Drosera peltata Sm. ex Willd.
[syn. Drosera lunata Buch.-Ham.]
Drosera rotundifolia L.
Drosera whitakeri Planch.
Drosera ramentacea Burchell
[syn. Drosera madagascariensis DC.] 

The common or round-leaved sundew (Drosera rotundifolia) has been used to remove warts, corns, keratoses, and freckles in eastern (Piffard 1881, White 1887) and western North America (Turner & Bell 1971). Culpepper (1653) claimed that application of the leaves of Drosera rotundifolia to the skin raises blisters. The crushed leaves of Drosera indica and Drosera peltata have also been described as vesicant (Behl et al. 1966, Nadkarni 1976).

Drosera burmannii Vahl

The crushed leaves of this species have been described as vesicant and acrid (Behl et al. 1966). It is considered to be a powerful rubefacient in Hindu medicine (Lewis & Elvin-Lewis 1977).


  • Lewis WH, Elvin-Lewis MPF (1977) Medical Botany. Plants affecting man's health. New York: John Wiley [WorldCat]
  • Thomson RH (1971) Naturally Occurring Quinones, 2nd edn. London: Academic Press [doi] [WorldCat] [url]
  • [Others yet to be added. Details available on request]

Richard J. Schmidt

[Valid HTML 4.01!]

[2D-QR coded url]