A Hybrid Sundew


Hybridization is an interesting thing, and the carnivorous sundews will hybridize at times, although only with the species that they are related enough to do so. And just because they can hybridize, doesn’t always mean that they do, even when living in close proximity to one another. The reasons for this are not fully known, but could be related to the flowers of the species being open and receptive at different times of the day, or could be a simple matter of the behavior of the insect pollinators. Three species of sundews are native to Long Island, Drosera intermedia, Drosera filiformis, and Drosera rotundifolia.  Of these species, D. filiformis, and D. rotundifolia are known to not be able to hybridize, as they are not closely related enough. D. filiformis and D. intermedia are able to hybridize, although do so extremely rarely in nature, and this hybrid has only ever been reported from New Jersey. D. rotundifolia and D. intermedia on the other hand, do readily hybridize in nature, and this hybrid is known as Drosera x belezeana.
This hybrid has been reported from Western Europe, and the Northeast and Great Lakes regions of the US and Canada. Still, the plant does not seem to be very common, even where the parent species coexist in great numbers. This little sundew exhibits a blending of features of the two parent species, and can easily be confused with either of them. A few characteristics for quick identification are that the traps are not nearly as wide as those of D. rotundifolia, and the plant grows many more leaves around its rosette, similar to D. intermedia. The hybrid was discovered for the first time in the State of New York by the author in 2012. Of the locations on Long Island where the parent species grow together, only three populations of the hybrid are known to exist, showing that hybridization between these two species is not all that much of a common occurrence.
For the first three photographs, we see detailed looks of the hybrid sundew, Drosera x belezeana (Drosera rotundifolia x D. intermedia) growing on a floating Sphagnum mat in the middle of a pond, surrounded by upland woods. The fourth photograph is a nearby population of the spoonleaf sundew (Drosera intermedia), with seed pods ripening on their flower stalks, and surrounded by the comb-leaf mermaid weed (Proserpinaca pectinata). The location is on the edge of a sandy vernal pond, with a gently sloping shoreline, and exposed to bright sunlight throughout the day. In the final photograph, the orb-weaving spider, a female Spined Micrathena (Micrathena gracilis), sits patiently. She basks in the sunlight, waiting for the next meal to become ensnared in her beautiful and treacherous web. Another one of the many creatures, which inhabit the Suffolk County Boglands.


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