What’s that tentacle on the cover of the book?

Drosera_rotundifolia_leaf1The artwork on the cover of the novel Semiosis is from a photo of the leaves of a Drosera, commonly called a sundew, a carnivorous plant. The pretty little droplets on the stalks are glue — sweet glue like drops of nectar to attract and trap insects. Other glands on the stalk secrete digestive fluids to dissolve nutrients, which the plant then absorbs.

You can find sundews on every continent but Antarctica. The photo above depicts a Drosera rotundifolia, a widespread species, which happens to grow in the Chicago area, where I live.

Like many carnivorous plants, sundews usually grow in moist, sunny locations such as bogs and marshes. The plant needs animal nutrients to make up for deficiencies in the soil. Most are small, but some of the 194 species can reach a meter tall (which is scary). Some are vinelike, others form rosettes or long stalks, and their colors vary.

They’re designed to look attractive to bugs, although human collectors find them fascinating, too. The hapless insect lands on the sparkling leaf and gets stuck. It struggles against the glue, which makes the stalks bend quickly to hold it tighter, and some species even curl their leaves to grip their meal.

The Botany Society of America can tell you more about Drosera. Wikipedia has even more detailed information.

Watch them at work on YouTube, and you’ll feel sorry for the flies.

Are their carnivorous plants in Semiosis? Yes, more than one kind. Most of the plants aren’t hungry for animal prey, though. And a few are merely murderous.

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