Index of Species Information
SPECIES: Drosera rotundifolia
SPECIES: Drosera rotundifolia
AUTHORSHIP AND CITATION :
Matthews, Robin F. 1994. Drosera rotundifolia. In: Fire Effects Information System, [Online].
U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Rocky Mountain Research Station,
Fire Sciences Laboratory (Producer). Available:
On 24 April 2018, the common name of this species was changed in FEIS
from: round-leaved sundew
to: roundleaf sundew. Images were also added.
NRCS PLANT CODE :
COMMON NAMES :
The scientific name of roundleaf sundew is Drosera rotundifolia L.
(Droseraceae) [14,19,20,21,44]. The following varieties are recognized:
Drosera rotundifolia var. rotundifolia
D. rotundifolia var. gracilis Laestad [22,27]
D. rotundifolia var. comosa Fern. [14,27,47]
Roundleaf sundew hybridizes with English sundew (D. anglica) where
the two grow together [22,41]. The resultant hybrid, D. x obovata Mert.
& Koch, is sterile [14,20,27,45]. Roundleaf sundew also hybridizes
with narrow-leaved sundew (D. linearis) to form the infertile D. x
anglica Hudson, which is morphologically indistinguishable from the
fertile D. anglica [45,59].
LIFE FORM :
FEDERAL LEGAL STATUS :
See OTHER STATUS
OTHER STATUS :
Roundleaf sundew is protected in New York .
DISTRIBUTION AND OCCURRENCE
SPECIES: Drosera rotundifolia
GENERAL DISTRIBUTION :
Roundleaf sundew is distributed from Greenland and Newfoundland west
to Alaska. It occurs south along the Pacific coast to California and
inland as far as western Montana and western Colorado. In the East,
roundleaf sundew is found from Nova Scotia south to Georgia, Florida,
and Alabama and west to the Mississippi River, Iowa, and Minnesota
[14,19,21,44,45]. Roundleaf sundew is known from at least two
locations in west-central Montana . In Colorado, it is known from
one bog in Gunnison County, a site that has been given special
protection . There is also one record of roundleaf sundew from a
bog in Bottineau County, North Dakota . Populations of roundleaf
sundew also occur in Europe and Asia [21,22,44].
|Distribution of roundleaf sundew. Map courtesy of USDA, NRCS. 2018. The PLANTS Database.
National Plant Data Team, Greensboro, NC [2018, April 24] .
FRES10 White - red - jack pine
FRES11 Spruce - fir
FRES14 Oak - pine
FRES15 Oak - hickory
FRES16 Oak - gum - cypress
FRES17 Elm - ash - cottonwood
FRES18 Maple - beech - birch
FRES19 Aspen - birch
FRES22 Western white pine
FRES24 Hemlock - Sitka spruce
FRES28 Western hardwoods
FRES37 Mountain meadows
AL AK CA CO CT DE FL GA ID IL
IN IA KY ME MD MA MI MN MT NV
NH NJ NY NC OH OR PA RI SC TN
VT VA WA WV WI AB BC MB NB NF
NT NS ON PE PQ SK YT
BLM PHYSIOGRAPHIC REGIONS :
1 Northern Pacific Border
2 Cascade Mountains
3 Southern Pacific Border
4 Sierra Mountains
5 Columbia Plateau
6 Upper Basin and Range
7 Lower Basin and Range
8 Northern Rocky Mountains
11 Southern Rocky Mountains
KUCHLER PLANT ASSOCIATIONS :
K094 Conifer bog
SAF COVER TYPES :
SRM (RANGELAND) COVER TYPES :
HABITAT TYPES AND PLANT COMMUNITIES :
Roundleaf sundew is an indicator of bogs in the Northeast .
Tree species such as lodgepole pine (Pinus contorta), jack pine (P.
banksiana), Sitka spruce (Picea sitkensis), black spruce (P. mariana),
white spruce (P. glauca), western hemlock (Tsuga heterophylla), mountain
hemlock (T. mertensiana), eastern hemlock (T. canadensis), western
redcedar (Thuja plicata), northern white-cedar (T. occidentalis),
Alaska-cedar (Chamaecyparis nootkatensis), Atlantic white-cedar (C.
thyoides), tamarack (Larix laricina), balsam fir (Abies balsamea),
balsam poplar (Populus balsamifera), trembling aspen (P. tremuloides),
birch (Betula spp.), and red maple (Acer rubrum) occur as scattered
individuals or are present in forests surrounding the bogs or swamps
that roundleaf sundew inhabit [3,10,23,25,48].
Other species typically associated with roundleaf sundew include
leatherleaf (Chamaedaphne calyculata), bog Labrador tea (Ledum
groenlandicum), poison sumac (Rhus vernix), bog kalmia (Kalmia
polifolia), bog rosemary (Andromeda polifolia), bog cranberry (Vaccinium
oxycoccos), blueberries (Vaccinium spp.), willows (Salix spp.), common
buckbean (Menyanthes trifoliata), pitcher-plant (Sarracenia purpurea),
mountain bladderwort (Urticularia intermedia), slender bladderwort (U.
subulata), St. Johnswort (Hypericum spp.), sedges (Carex spp.), sheathed
cottonsedge (Eriophorum vaginatum), bluejoint reedgrass (Calamagrostis
canadensis), sphagnum mosses (Sphagnum spp.), Schreber's moss (Pleurozium
schreberi), and other mosses (Aulacomnium palustre and Polytrichum
SPECIES: Drosera rotundifolia
IMPORTANCE TO LIVESTOCK AND WILDLIFE :
Roundleaf sundew is commonly eaten by moose on the Kenai Peninsula of
Alaska in late May and June when in preflowering and early flowering
The wetland habitats that roundleaf sundew grows in are important
breeding and staging areas for migratory waterfowl and are rich in a
variety of wildlife .
Roundleaf sundew is present in wetland communities of western
Massachusetts and New York that are dominated by tall shrubs other than
alders (Alnus spp.). These communities, especially the Cicero Swamp in
western Massachusetts, form the primary habitat for the endangered
eastern massasauga rattlesnake .
Roundleaf sundew may be an important food source for bog-dwelling
ants. Ants are opportunistic predators of insects trapped in the leaves
of roundleaf sundew, scavenging up to two-thirds of the prey caught
by the plant .
NUTRITIONAL VALUE :
COVER VALUE :
VALUE FOR REHABILITATION OF DISTURBED SITES :
Sundews (Drosera spp.) generally survive better than other carnivorous
plants and can naturally invade disturbed bog sites where other
vegetation has been removed, such as after roadside ditching or
burning . Roundleaf sundew naturally regenerated in an Ontario
bog 24 years following the complete removal of the vegetation and peat
up to 6.6 feet (2 m) deep as a result of peat mining .
OTHER USES AND VALUES :
Leaves of roundleaf sundew can curdle milk and were used in Sweden to
make cheese. Fresh leaves have also been used to treat warts.
Roundleaf sundew has been used as a remedy for respiratory ailments.
The plant contains an antibiotic effective against Streptococcus,
Staphylococcus, and Pneumococcus bacteria .
OTHER MANAGEMENT CONSIDERATIONS :
Clearing and drainage of peat bogs or swamps for peat mining, millpond
construction, access to timber, and agricultural purposes have resulted
in the decline of roundleaf sundew habitat by altering site
conditions in many areas [1,8,10,35,45]. Drainage also has an indirect
negative effect by diminishing the numbers of roundleaf sundew prey
that have aquatic larval stages .
Insectivorous plants, including roundleaf sundew, may add to the
nutrient pool on the nutrient-deficient sites where they most often grow
. Roundleaf sundew itself apparently does not respond positively
to fertilization. The application of nitrogen, phosphorous, or a
combination of the two to nutrient-poor sites negatively affected the
growth of a natural roundleaf sundew population on the Jefferson
National Forest, Virginia. Plants were not as large, did not have as
many mature leaves, and did not produce as many flowers as plants on
sites without added nutrients. The negative effect may have been the
product of ion toxicity .
Microhabitat segregation among different sundews (Drosera spp.) at the
same site may influence the types of prey captured. Roundleaf sundew
and spatulate-leaved sundew (D. intermedia) in southern Germany occupied
different microhabitats and caught different kinds of insects, even
though they occurred together in the same bog . Lists of insects
that have been captured as prey in the leaves of roundleaf sundew are
Grazing apparently does not eradicate roundleaf sundew; it has been
found on wet grasslands of the British Isles that have been grazed by
both cattle and sheep .
BOTANICAL AND ECOLOGICAL CHARACTERISTICS
SPECIES: Drosera rotundifolia
GENERAL BOTANICAL CHARACTERISTICS :
Roundleaf sundew is an insectivorous, short-lived perennial forb
arising from a basal rosette of leaves. The upper surface of the leaf
blades are covered with reddish, glandular hairs tipped with a sticky,
glutinous secretion that traps insects. The inflorescence is a
one-sided raceme with 2 to 15 flowers on a scape that is 2 to 10 inches
(5-25 cm) long. There may be one to seven inflorescences per rosette.
The fruits are capsules with numerous small seeds [8,20,21,41,44].
The root system of roundleaf sundew is usually shallow (less than 2.4
inches [6 cm]) . It consists of a taproot - functional for less than
a year - which is replaced by mostly horizontal adventitious roots with
a few root hairs [8,37,50].
Roundleaf sundew compensates for the low available nutrients in its
habitat by catching and digesting insects [8,45,49,54]. Insects are
caught with the sticky glandular leaf hairs, and the leaf then folds
around the prey. The hairs secrete proteolytic enzymes which digest the
insect and enable the plant to absorb nutrients through its leaves
[37,45,52]. Insect capture is generally believed to enhance growth and
reproduction of roundleaf sundew [8,24,29,46,56]. It is
significantly correlated (p<0.01) with total leaf number, number of new
leaves formed, and total leaf area . However, Stewart 
determined that roundleaf sundew did not benefit from insect capture
in field experiments in the Jefferson National Forest, Virginia. The
benefits of insectivory may be site-dependent; roundleaf sundew may
benefit most from insect capture on the most nutrient-poor sites.
RAUNKIAER LIFE FORM :
REGENERATION PROCESSES :
Roundleaf sundew reproduces vegetatively or by seed [8,29,37,52].
Vegetative reproduction takes place when leaf buds form plantlets, or
when axillary buds below the rosette form a secondary rosette. As the
stem decays, the two separate [8,37]. Adventitious plants develop in
the autumn. They occur occasionally in the field but are often present
in greenhouse experiments, possible due to a high level of humidity
When flowers are open during the day, they are cross-pollinated by wind
or insects. Self-pollination may take place as flowers close in the
evening [45,50]. The fruits often persist unopened, and seeds are
released when the fruit rots . The fusiform seeds are 0.06 to 0.07
inch (1.5-1.8 mm) long and 0.008 inch (0.2 mm) wide and have an inflated
testa. Air trapped in the testa makes the seed buoyant and capable of
floating for days on water surfaces. Seeds may be carried some distance
with snowmelt and flooding . Plants flower in their first summer
and every year thereafter .
SITE CHARACTERISTICS :
Roundleaf sundew is most often found in bogs, but also grows in
swamps, rotting logs, mossy crevices in rocks, or damp sand along
stream, lake, or pond margins [31,37,39,52,59]. It is generally
associated with sphagnum mosses and grows on floating sphagnum mats or
sphagnum hummocks [8,29,32,37,50]. It may also grow on peat soils of
other bryophyte or of graminoid origins . In the northern part
of its range the sphagnum bogs in which roundleaf sundew grows are
generally found surrounding glacial lakes. In the Appalachians from
Pennsylvania to Alabama, the bogs are most often at confluences of
springheads, around seeps, or along streams rather than lake margins.
The same is true for sphagnum bogs of the southeastern coastal plain,
but there roundleaf sundew may also grow in grass-sedge bogs. In the
Pacific Northwest, sphagnum bogs are typically found along streams and
occasionally develop around high elevation seeps and shallow lake
margins in the northern Rocky Mountains [3,45].
Roundleaf sundew is usually confined to sites with a high water table
or high precipitation and humidity . It requires continually moist
or wet situations . Roundleaf sundew grows in organic acid soils
that are low in available nutrients (nitrogen and phosphorous, and
calcium [3,24,49,54]. According to Crowder , the normal range of the
water table on sites where roundleaf sundew grows is from 1 inch (2
cm) above to 16 inches (40 cm) below the soil surface. Flooding can be
tolerated for several weeks, but dry periods can only be tolerated for a
very short time. Lloyd  reported that it is not found on limestone
soils; high calcium concentrations may be toxic to the plant.
Roundleaf sundew grows in sedge meadow communities of the Huntingdon
Marsh in Quebec on peat underlain by clay at 24 inches (60 cm) or more.
The soil surface is slightly above or up to 10 inches (25 cm) below the
water table . Roundleaf sundew has been reported as growing on
sites ranging from neutral pH (7.3) to very acidic (3.2) [18,38].
Acidic soils with low nutrient concentrations (nitrogen, phosphorous, or
calcium) seem to be the most common substrate [2,11,38,49,61].
In British Columbia, roundleaf sundew is an indicator of wet to very
wet, nitrogen-poor soils in boreal, cool temperate, and cool mesothermal
climates. It is associated with sphagnum moss in nonforested,
semiterrestrial communities .
An atypical site was found on Ile Perrot, Quebec, where roundleaf
sundew was growing on moderately dry, abandoned pastureland that
originally had been a swamp. The soil was well-drained loamy sand with
an average pH of 6.1. The site was "basically infertile" with extremely
low calcium and nitrogen concentrations .
SUCCESSIONAL STATUS :
Roundleaf sundew is very shade intolerant [28,50]. Since the plant
is so small, even graminoids and small shrubs may limit light
availability . Shaded plants may not develop a rosette but instead
have a more spindly habit . The encroachment of poison sumac,
speckled alder (Alder rugosa), and purple chokeberry (Pyrus floribunda)
into a kettle bog at Brown's Lake Bog Preserve in northeastern Ohio has
resulted in the "shading out" of characteristic bog species including
roundleaf sundew, pitcher-plant, and sphagnum mosses [12,63]. One
bog in Jefferson National Forest, Virginia, is kept in an early
secondary successional stage by periodic removal of ferns (Osmunda
spp.), alders, and other shade-producing plants. This treatment has
resulted in a proliferation of sundews (Drosera spp.) .
The adaptations of roundleaf sundew to nutrient-poor conditions
allows it to be very competitive and persistent in acid wetlands .
It has invaded disturbed sites in bogs after peat mining, ditching, and
burning [8,37,45,52]. In subarctic Manitoba, roundleaf sundew was
present in undisturbed bogs and in a bog that had been completely
cleared of vegetation 7 years earlier . However, if succession
leads to the invasion of bogs by woody vegetation, roundleaf sundew
is easily shaded out as site conditions are altered . In rich fens
roundleaf sundew is probably at a competitive disadvantage because of
higher species diversity [24,50].
Bog succession in general is not well understood [3,24]. Bogs can be
formed by the filling-in of lakes or ponds, or the paludification
process where forests are converted to wetlands . Many bogs are
apparently stable and very long-lived, whereas others are ephemeral
unless frequently disturbed . On Isle Royale in Lake Superior,
roundleaf sundew was present in mid-seral stages of succession from
rocky shore to forest and was also seral in bog succession, occurring
mostly between aquatic stages and bog forest [6,7]. The same general
pattern describes the role of roundleaf sundew throughout peat bogs
in eastern North America .
SEASONAL DEVELOPMENT :
Roundleaf sundew generally flowers from June to September throughout
its range [19,30,39,45]. Flowers open one per day, starting from the
bottom of the inflorescence . Seed dispersal begins in July and
most seeds fall before winter. However, some may be found in dried
capsules in the spring . Roundleaf sundew forms a hibernaculum
(tightly rolled leaf primordia) in the fall. The remaining leaves, and
frequently the roots, die back after the hibernaculum develops. The
hibernaculum opens in April or May of the following year [45,55,62].
SPECIES: Drosera rotundifolia
FIRE ECOLOGY OR ADAPTATIONS :
Frequent fire is necessary to maintain some of the bog habitats in which
roundleaf sundew grows. In these locations fire suppression has led
to the invasion of woody species from the surrounding forest. Frequent
surface fires remove the young woody plants advancing from bog edges.
Where woody vegetation is dense and has lowered the water table, fires
can be severe and may alter the subsequent composition of the vegetation
On moist savannahs of the southeastern coastal plain, fire suppression
has resulted in the exclusion of shade-intolerant species including
roundleaf sundew. Mesic savannahs succeed to flatwoods; wet
savannahs are quickly invaded by pocosin shrubs in the absence of fire.
When severe fires reduce peat depth or remove peat, grass-dominated
wetlands may replace the prefire vegetation .
Fire is important in lowland peat communities in Alaska. Sphagnum
development is slow after fire and burned peatlands are often invaded by
sheathed cottonsedge. This results in a shift from wet sphagnum bogs to
tussock communities. Roundleaf sundew, which inhabits the sphagnum
bogs, is able to survive on sphagnum hummocks between tussocks of
sheathed cottonsedge .
Many bogs may escape fire because of high water tables, or occur in
cold, wet climates with very long fire intervals.
FIRE REGIMES :
Find fire regime information for the plant communities in which this
species may occur by entering the species name in the FEIS home page under
"Find Fire Regimes".
POSTFIRE REGENERATION STRATEGY :
Initial-offsite colonizer (off-site, initial community)
Secondary colonizer - off-site seed
SPECIES: Drosera rotundifolia
IMMEDIATE FIRE EFFECT ON PLANT :
Roundleaf sundew is most likely killed even by fast moving,
low-severity fires. However, fires in bogs are generally patchy and
roundleaf sundew probably survives in unburned microsites.
PLANT RESPONSE TO FIRE :
Roundleaf sundew colonizes recently burned peat surfaces [8,45]. At
the Acadian Forest Experimental Station in New Brunswick, roundleaf
sundew invaded a bog containing short, scattered tamarack after seasonal
burning. It was absent or measured at less than one stem per square
meter prior to burning, but seeds colonized the area in August and
germinated to produce small seedlings. However, the seedlings failed to
establish successfully and subsequently died . Roundleaf sundew
frequency was relatively stable in the five summers following a late
March, 1974, wildfire in a Scotch pine (Pinus sylvestris) woodland in
Scotland; frequency ranged from 35 to 55 percent . The plant may
have occurred in poorly-drained areas that were not completely burned.
Roundleaf sundew was present in a wetland community dominated by tall
shrubs in the Cicero Swamp Wildlife Management Area in New York that had
burned 94 years earlier. Up to 3.3 feet (1 m) of peat had been burned
on some sites, indicating a severe fire. Roundleaf sundew only had a
frequency of 1 percent and cover of 0.1 percent , possibly due to
the cover of tall shrubs.
FIRE MANAGEMENT CONSIDERATIONS :
Periodic autumn fires can prolong the life of some bogs by inhibiting
the invasion of woody plant species .
Roundleaf sundew, along with cattails (Typha spp.), horsetails
(Equisetum spp.), and common buckbean, are present in sedge meadow
communities that are maintained by fire in the Huntingdon Marsh, Quebec.
Fire is used to prevent the invasion of alders and willows .
In central Alberta, the burning of bog forests may revert the vegetation
to that of Labrador tea (Ledum spp.)-dominated moors, of which
roundleaf sundew is a component .
SPECIES: Drosera rotundifolia
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