This is the King Sundew - Drosera regia, very rare in the wild, but increasingly popular in cultivationIt is a carnivorous plant able to trap and digest small animals.
Even if there are only two small wild populations this is one of the more fortunate species that will live in greenhouses and conservatories long after its wild ancestors are gone.
There is a gruesome irony in this - no matter how we feel about it, good looks always matter. We don't understand the inner workings and relationships in our environment well enough and we don't realize the significance of every single part of it or the fact that each one has a crucial role in sustaining the whole.
We make efforts to save iconic species, instead of enabling nature to continue to support itself. At the end we will live on a barren planet with a bunch of pandas and droseras under glass.
I believe that the world is much weirder than we dare to imagine and Drosera regia is one of the many bizarre creatures that prove this. Its sticky traps are incredibly efficient in catching large amounts of insects, but they also trap other organic matter as pollen for example. If necessary they are able to curl several times around the body of its victim in order to better contain and digest it. The glistening mucilage produced by the glands on the upper side of the leaves contains enzymes that dissolve organic matter turning it into a nutritious liquid that the plant absorbs.
However no matter how amazingly good it is at fending for itself Drosera regia is a very fragile organism that depends on a particular environment to survive. It is adapted to a narrow range of temperatures, humidity, soil pH and many more factors. A fact that will most likely prevent it to survive in a rapidly changing climate conditions.
For the King Sundew the margin between rare and extinct is narrow and blurry. It will survive in cultivation, but for how long will its natural habitat remain hospitable for it? Where are we going to put it back if we destroy or change irreversibly its natural environment?
I don't know the future of this species. For now I can only try to make it more popular, propagate it and hope for the best.
Author of the text and photos: Petar Kostov, telopeanursery.com, 20161110