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Mystery Plant


This little plant produces a cluster of tiny spoon-shaped leaves, arranged in a low rosette.


John Nelson

Saturday, May 12, 2018

But, look, the morn, in russet mantle clad,

Walks o’er the dew of yon high eastward hill.

Shakespeare, Hamlet, Act 1, Scene 1

Dew is something that has long captured the imagination of the poets: It is born from the air, appearing as magic pearls in the morning, often forming spectacular, shiny scenery when the sun hits it just right. Then it disappears.

The little plant pictured here offers its own kind of “dew,” which of course is not real dew at all, and is not dependent upon the atmosphere. The plants each produce a cluster of tiny spoon-shaped leaves, these arranged in a low rosette. The whole plant may have a “spread” of only a couple of inches. It produces several white or pink-petaled flowers, arranged on an upright, threadlike stalk, 6-8 inches or so tall, growing from the center of the rosette.

Special hairs covering the upper surface of the leaves secrete a droplet of sticky, clear mucilage. In full sun, the little plants can be spectacular, producing a shimmering vision of sparkling diamonds, and when present in enough numbers the plants may form a brilliantly glistening carpet, very attractive … even if you are not on your hands and knees. This species and its relatives belong to a genus whose name in Greek means “glistening” … as in the morning dew.

The beauty of such a scene belies the potential danger to small insects and tiny critters, often attracted to the galaxy of tiny droplets. Some evidence indicates that the droplets have a tempting, sweet taste, hence even more attractive. Thus, tiny critters may be showing up for dinner. Once contacting the drops, though, these insects are invariably glued to the leaf, as the collective effect of the secretions forms a natural kind of sticky fly-paper.

Struggling against the sticky dew is of little help, and generally further enmires the victim. After a little while, the tiny leaf blade rolls over the trapped bug, and death soon follows. Well, after all, this is an insectivorous plant, and it is actually feeding upon the valuable nutrients present in the insect’s body. So it turns out that the little dinner guests showing up are they themselves on the menu.

This little plant is one of about 30 different species of insectivorous (or “carnivorous”) plants that can be found in the southeastern USA. This particular species is reasonably common on the coastal plain from Virginia to Texas, and it likes to grow on damp peat or sand of bogs or pond margins.

All insectivorous plants are fully capable of producing their own carbohydrates as a source of energy, through the process of photosynthesis. Additionally, though, insectivorous plants have all evolved mechanisms enabling them to variously trap tiny animals. Nutrients in the bodies of the trapped critters is ultimately absorbed by the plant, which thus capitalizes from this curiously derived “fertilizer.”

Ecologically, most insectivorous plants tend to be found on soils that have low pH, or relatively acidic. Nutrients in such places are generally harder for plants to absorb, so carnivory comes in very handy.

[Answer: “Pink sun-dew,” Drosera capillaris]

John Nelson is the curator of the A.C. Moore Herbarium at the University of South Carolina’s Department of Biological Sciences in Columbia, S.C. As a public service, the Herbarium offers free plant identifications. For more information, call 803-777-8196, visit www.herbarium.org or email nelson@sc.edu.


Humans of Greenville


Local photographer Joe Pellegrino explores Greenville to create a photographic census of its people.


May 27, 2018

"The Garden is Open" sign is still there.

The tulips and azaleas, though well past their height, still glorify the yard.

It is still worth a special trip to Chapel Hill to experience this lovely, well-planned, colorful garden.

But the twin sisters who planned every part of their grounds and…

May 23, 2018

Sometimes presentation is overrated. Eton Mess is a British dessert that’s an unapologetic mishmash of fruit, cream and crumbled meringues folded together and plunked in a glass or bowl. It’s the kind of mix that appeals to kids and adults alike. While you might call it messy,…


May 20, 2018

Weeks after college graduations and weeks before high school ceremonies, St. Paul’s Episcopal Church is having what the Rev. Bob Hudak calls a “commencement” today.

It is not a commencement in which diplomas will be conferred but a commencement in the sense of the beginning of…


May 20, 2018

I read recently about a mama raccoon and her four babies falling through the ceiling and onto the living room couch of a Michigan home.

The closest I ever came to that was a lone dead squirrel that wormed its way around the uncompleted mounting of a new ceiling light fixture, was apparently…

Bob Garner

May 20, 2018


Dear Short Answers: There is a woman in town who is a stay-at-home mom with three children. Every year (actually, three times a year), she throws the most lavish birthday parties for her kids. It makes the rest of us moms look like slackers. Every year, our own kids ask why…

Short Answers

May 19, 2018


■ Burning Bush United Holy Church, 610 N.C. 43 North, Vanceboro, will have quarterly meeting at 11 a.m. Sunday.

■ Carson Memorial Pentecostal Holiness Church, 1710 Pactolus Highway, will have its annual homecoming service at 11 a.m. Sunday. The group Unshackled will be musical guests.…

May 18, 2018

Capsules of movies playing locally. New releases are indicated with an asterisk.

AVENGERS: INFINITY WAR — The Avengers and their allies must be willing to sacrifice all in an attempt to defeat the powerful Thanos before his blitz of devastation and ruin puts an end to the universe. (2…


May 18, 2018

Diners at Oklahoma’s Tulsa Club must have thought there was something funny going on that spring evening when more than two dozen men met on the roof and spent several hours singing old songs.

Customer complaints about the noise caused the next meeting to be moved to the Hotel Tulsa, but the…


May 18, 2018


Art from Pitt County Schools high school students will be on exhibit from today through June 10 in the Commons Gallery. An opening reception will be held from 5:30-7 p.m. today.

The Greenville Museum of Art is at 802 Evans St. Call 758-1946 or visit gmoa.org.

Gray Gallery

The exhibit “110…


May 16, 2018

Wingstop is a new restaurant at 1885 E. Fire Tower Road next to Baskin Robbins Ice Cream. Enjoy ample seating at artfully decorated tables with an aviation theme, listen to upbeat music and order an array of items from wings to sides from the easy-to-navigate menu.

Wingstop offers three styles of…

329 stories in Look. Viewing 1 through 10.
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