Drosera intermedia (Spoon-leaf Sundew)

Plant Info
Also known as: Spatulate-leaved Sundew
Family:Droseraceae (Sundew)
Life cycle:perennial, short-lived perennial
Habitat:part shade, sun; bogs, fens, seeps, shallow water
Bloom season:July - August
Plant height:2 to 8 inches
Wetland Indicator Status:GP: OBL MW: OBL NCNE: OBL
MN county distribution (click map to enlarge):Minnesota county distribution map
National distribution (click map to enlarge):National distribution map

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Detailed Information

Flower: Flower shape: 5-petals Cluster type: raceme

[photo of flowers] A one-sided raceme of 3 to 8 flowers at the top of a slender naked stem to 8 inches tall. Flowers are 1/3 inch across, with 5 round white petals, 5 yellow-tipped stamens, single pistil with 3 styles. The 5 sepals are smooth and about ¾ the length of the petals. The flowering stem is formed tightly coiled and unrolls as flowers mature and ascend.

Leaves and stems: Leaf attachment: alternate Leaf attachment: basal Leaf type: simple

[photo of leaves] Leaf blades are bright green, paddle or spatula shaped, 1/8 to 3/16 inch (2 to 4 mm) wide by ¼ to ¾ inch (8 to 20 mm) long, the upper surface covered with red, sticky tipped glandular hairs that trap insects, the underside smooth and green. Leaf stalks are smooth, green or red, ¾ to 2 inches long, with an appendage (stipule) at the base that is 3 to 6 mm long, connected to the stalk only for about 1 mm, and shredded at the tip into hair-like or scale-like segments. Leaves are mostly widely spreading to ascending, though some may be erect.

[photo of elongated stem] Stems are 3/8 to 3 inches long, rarely longer. On very short stems leaves are congested and appear to be a basal rosette, but are more separated and more obviously alternate on longer stems. Flowering stems (scapes) rise well above the leaves and tend to grow in an “L” shape, laterally from the plant base some then curve upward and become erect from that point.

Fruit: Fruit type: capsule/pod

[photo of developing fruit] Fruit is an oval capsule less than 1/8 inch long but longer than the sepals. Seeds are .7 to 1 mm long, reddish brown with a minutely bumpy texture.


There are 4 species of Drosera in Minnesota, plus 1 record of a hybrid (Drosera x obovata), all of which have more or less the same flower and grow in similar habitats. While the “L” shape of the scape (flowering stem) is a unique trait of Drosera intermedia, the shape of the leaf blade is typically what distinguishes one species from another: Round-leaf Sundew (D. rotundifolia) has round blades, English Sundew (D. anglica) and Linear-leaf Sundew (D. linearis) are longer and more narrow. Of these three, D. intermedia is most similar to D. anglica and the overlap in leaf sizes can make them difficult to distinguish sometimes. While Flora of North America notes that D. intermedia is the only species in the genus with a leafy stem, which is frequently elongated with at least some leaves obviously alternate, a reliable source tells us D. anglica can exhibit this characteristic as well, but is rare. Other distinctions are: D. anglica scapes are always erect from the base, leaves tend to grow mostly erect, leaf stalks are often at least sparsely gland-dotted or sometimes sparsely hairy, and stipules are connected to leaf stalk for their entire length, where D. intermedia leaves are more spreading, stalks are not gland-dotted or hairy, and the stipules only connected for about 1 mm of their total length.

D. intermedia is circumboreal throughout the northern hemisphere as well as higher elevations of Cuba and South America, with apparent regional differences in blade size. Often forming dense populations within its preferred habitat, they are too numerous to avoid walking all over while exploring boggy habitat. A carnivorous plant and another childhood botany icon—children are fascinated by the notion that a plant can “eat” animals. However, few are stimulated to see it for themselves as they grow into adulthood, having become bored of such things. That's a shame, because these things are way cool.

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More photos

Photos courtesy Peter M. Dziuk taken at several locations in Aitkin and Anoka counties.


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