Drosera gracilis – alpine form

Drosera gracilis – alpine form

The taxonomy of Drosera gracilis is complex and controversial. Over the years, it has drifted in and out of synonymy with Drosera peltata depending on the differing concepts of speciation applied by various authors. Regardless, the taxon is readily identifiable from its niche and morphology.

Drosera gracilis on Mt Buffalo

Drosera gracilis was originally described from material collected from highland Tasmania. While the common understanding of the taxon has expanded in recent years to include lowland forms, the alpine form constitutes D. gracilis in the strict sense. This post will therefore discuss the plants I found growing in the high country of Victoria, which are probably similar to the type.

Note the thin main stem, long inflorescence and reddish colour

Drosera gracilis is an erect tuberous sundew within the D. peltata complex. The main stem of the plant is slender, commonly reaching about 5-15 cm in length. The inflorescence adds an additional 5-10 cm, with uncrowded flower buds spaced away from the last leaves. The basal rosette is fairly robust and generally persistent at anthesis. The overall colour of the plants is usually reddish.

Note the long, tapering appendage at the apex of the seeds

The seed of Drosera gracilis is distinctively shaped and is long and slender, with a tapering ‘beak-like’ protuberance at the apex. This feature is what distinguishes it from D. peltata from the sandstone heathland of the NSW coast (what some might consider the ‘true’ D. peltata).

Note the hairy sepals. It’s hard to see but the indumenta are tipped with red glands

The sepals of the taxon are hairy, with indumenta that are tipped with glands. Some authors list the presence of these glands as distinctive, although I do note that the fine morphology of the sepals is generally variable in the D. peltata complex. I would like to study more populations before listing this as a diagnostic feature.

This steep habitat exposes the subterranean stolons of the plant

In addition, I observed the plants to be stoloniferous, with lateral stolons emerging directly from the basal rosette into the soil. These structures are noted by Lowrie in his description of the plants, but is often overlooked (presumably because they are subterranean and difficult to notice).

Drosera gracilis on a seepage at the edge of bushland

Drosera gracilis grows in alpine and subalpine bogs in Tasmania, Victoria and NSW (although possibly in other states, as well as New Guinea). The plants grow in gently sloped seepages, particularly in wetland clearings at the edge of bushland. It can also be found in sphagnum bogs where the soil is exposed. The plants actively grow throughout spring and into summer, lying dormant under snow during the winter months.

The open flowers.
Drosera gracilis in a mossy seepage atop a rock platform
Drosera gracilis in a recently burnt swamp. The fire exposed the soil, allowing for the plants to grow to increased densities.
Drosera gracilis in a sphagnum bog. The plants grow where the soil is exposed between the deep moss beds.
Basal rosettes of some immature plants.
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