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First Try Pollinating Drosera capensis

First Try Pollinating Drosera capensis

Drosera capensis is one of the carnivores that is able to self pollinate and produces quite a lot of seeds, even when grown indoors. Outdoor plants usually get help with pollination from insects, wind and rain droplets which are absent when you grow plants inside. For successful pollination, pollen from anthers needs to get transferred to stigma. Since there are no pollinators inside, Drosera capensis needs another way to get self pollinated and in the same time, allow and even promote pollination with pollen from nearby droseras.

D. capensis flower with removed petals
D. capensis flower with removed petals

As it can be seen on the photo on the left, the anthers are much lower than stigmas, which prevents from self pollination while the flower is still closed, but ripe enough for the pollination to occur. Eventually, when flower opens, the filaments that hold the anthers elongate enough for them to get the same height as stigmas, but as long as flower remains open, they remain separated and pollen can’t get transferred. If plants get pollinated while the flower remains opened, the seeds will not be a result of self-pollination but a regular pollination from plants, growing nearby. If there’s no pollination when the petals start closing (Drosera does that quite fast!), the anthers get pushed towards the stigmas and eventually, when the flower closes completely, they all get compressed together in the middle of the closed bloom, efficiently pollinating the flower.

Drosera capensis flower. Flowers only last a few hours.
Drosera capensis flowers only last a few hours.

Despite the fact that Drosera capensis simply gets self pollinated, I decided to manually transfer pollen from Drosera capensis ‘Alba’. By pollinating Drosera capensis (typical) with pollen from white version of the plant, I could get seedlings that will be a bit different from the mother plant. By removing the petals I made self pollination unlikely to occur, because the anthers won’t get pushed towards the stigmas as they usually do. I could further make sure to completely prevent self pollination by removing the anthers, but as my goal wasn’t getting hybrids, that wasn’t really necessary. The same method can be used to get hybrids by pollinating different Droseras which have compatible number of chromosomes.

A few months later, after germinating the seeds, I have learned that cross pollination of Alba and typical Drosera capensis most likely failed. Sadly, I never wrote down which pollinated flowers I picked and sown. If it was from typical variety, I may have been extremely successful, but I’m afraid it’s not the case. I think I have sown seed pod of pollinated D. capensis ‘Alba’ and noticed that it only produced white seedlings. It might be, that I was late to apply the pollen or it was just that the ‘white’ gene is dominant over the typical ‘pink’ gene, which I find highly unlikely. I have decided to retry the Alba-typical pollination process again, before trying to make a real cross pollination. The next time, I am going to make sure I cut off all the antlers  and wash the pollen that might already be on stigmas using spray bottle. I am also going to use both varieties as mother plant. That way it might be a lot clearer if I actually managed to successfully apply the pollen. If I get all the seedlings identical to mother plant, I’ll know I failed miserably. 🙂

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Drosera capensis color

Drosera capensis color

D. capensis 'Alba' under grow light
D. capensis ‘Alba’ under grow light

As mentioned numerous times, I’ve used two LED chips as growing light for quite a while. To induce coloring on Drosera seedlings, I decided to use cool and warm white LED chip, and they worked good enough. The regular Drosera capensis seedlings were getting red tentacles, Drosera capensis ‘Alba’, on the other hand, remained white, despite showing some pink coloring while positioned outdoors for the summer. All the plants have been growing OK, but Drosera seedlings did suffer a bit when I got them inside for the winter and started to get pale, lost some of their vigor and had hard time flowering.

Drosera capensis before
Regular Drosera capensis before changing its grow light with 380 – 840nm LED chip
d-capensis-regular-red
Drosera capensis under new light
d-capensis-regular-red1
D. capensis under new grow light

 

Drosera capensis 'alba' before
Drosera capensis ‘alba’ before
Alba under grow light
Alba under grow light
Drosera capensis 'Alba' under new LED
Drosera capensis ‘Alba’ under new LED

When I found extremely good offer from Chinese vendor on-line for a full spectrum 380-840nm grow light, I decided it’s worth a try. I placed two weaker, 50W LED chips, instead of two 100W white LEDs. The light intensity was seemingly lower, but after a minute spent around the plants, and leaving the room, I could see that normally lit room suddenly appeared dark. Well, beside that, colors were completely screwed for a couple of minutes due to brains correcting algorithms :).
After 14 days under new grow lights, Drosera seedlings got noticeably more colored. Regular Drosera capensis was dark red, looking almost like the red variety and Alba finally got the pink color. Both varieties also began to start growing flower stalks, which might indicate they like their new grow light.

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Drosera capensis ‘Alba’

Drosera capensis ‘Alba’

One month old Drosera capensis alba seedlings.
One month old Drosera capensis alba seedlings.
Drosera capensis Alba is very similar to regular D. capensis, but it lacks red pigment which forms in bright light. When it’s exposed to intense light and if it’s not regularly fed, it’s tentacles turn pink. When fed or in low light conditions, they loose their pink coloration and turn green with white tentacles.
It likes as much light as it can get. Seedlings grew slightly faster for me, when compared to regular Drosera capensis. At first I left them without food, but as soon as I noticed mold formation on top of the peat, I started adding springtails to fight the mold infection. I learned with regular D. capensis seedlings, that springtails can be extremely beneficial for small seedlings, because they not only feed on mold and algae, which can hurt young sundew seedlings, they are also easy prey for small carnivore plants. Because of their small size, feeding young seedlings can be real problem without some help from tiny springtails.

Drosera capensis Alba seedlings after feeding
Drosera capensis Alba seedlings after feeding

When seedlings became large enough and started growing first carnivorous leaves, it was time to add springtails into the pot. I managed to multiply a lot of springtails and when I threw them into the container with drosera seedlings, traps became filled with them. Most of them remained alive and started fighting fungus that also stared growing on top of the soil. Larger traps were already able to consume larger insects, so I added a couple of black aphids.

Just like regular Drosera capensis seedlings, ‘alba’ also starts growing rapidly when it gets bigger and starts catching more insects. It could have been a coincidence, but the pale variety of Drosera capensis managed to outperform it’s regular sibling when it comes to hunting. I found butterflies, bees and large insects that mostly managed to escape, but many of them most likely died with completely destroyed wings, covered with Drosera mucus.

Way too crowded with not as much soil as they would like to... They thrive anyway
Way too crowded with not as much soil as they would like to… They thrive anyway
Fascinating hunting skills of  Drosera capensis 'Alba'.
Fascinating hunting skills of Drosera capensis ‘Alba’.

When growing outside, all Cape sundews managed to cover their leaves with insects on a daily basis. In late summer and during early fall, they could get completely covered with small insects. At that point, they started flowering and growing vigorously.

Sadly, our climate doesn’t allow them to stay outside, which means they need to go inside in late September. They all need to get transplanted into separate pots too.

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