Pinguiciula (Butterwort)

Butterworts are from a genus of around 80 species. They are native to all continents, except Australia and Antarctica. Most species can be found in Central and South America.

Typically, plants have fleshy rosettes of green, pink or red leaves, covered with dew-producing glands. In temperate varieties, leaves are produced in spring and flowers form on long stems. They become dormant and die back in autumn, unlike tropical varieties.

Butterworts passively accumulate insects by trapping them on their sticky leaves, produced by their stalk glands on top of the leaf. Most feed on small insects but the size is dependent on the leaves’ level of adhesiveness. Once its prey has become trapped in the mucus from the sticky glands, enzyme producing glands are employed to extract nutrients and accomplish digestion. Fluids from the prey are absorbed via small holes present on the surface of the leaves.

It is believed the visual attraction of their colourful leaves and their scent may help to lure and capture specific prey.

Growing tips

Best grown in a mixture of half composted bark or sphagnum moss and half washed sharp sand with a little added leafmould is suitable for most species. Use shallow pots and stand in rainwater. They prefer good light conditions but not direct summer sunlight. Light dappled shade is ideal.

In the garden, temperate butterworts can be grown at the edge of a bog or pond and can winter outdoors. Typically, they come from mountainous regions and will tolerate frost. You could create a lined bog garden area so the nutrient levels can be kept low. Remove dead foliage to reduce the risk of fungal infections and encourage new growth.

Propagation is by division or leaf cuttings in spring, or by seeds, in warm humid conditions.

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