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Sundews are carnivorous plants that devour fruit flies, gnats, mosquitos and other insects. But what if it was the other way around and animals ate sundews? What would happen? Will they be fine or not? This is a cause for concern especially if you have pets and want to buy some sundews. Read on and find out the effect eating sundews has on animals.
Cats, dogs, cows, elk, sheep and buffaloes are among the many animals that eat sundews and other carnivorous plants. Sundews are not toxic to animals, though eating too much might cause an upset stomach.
What Happens When Animals Eat Sundews?
Sundews and other plants are consumed by herbivores, or plant eating animals. Cows, goats, donkeys and camels are some examples.
Sundews do not have any elements that are dangerous to animals. The only exception is if the plant is infected by bacteria. Assuming the plant does not carry any disease, bacteria or fungus, it is safe for humans too, but it does not taste good.
When an animal eats a sundew, the plant is digested and the nutrients are spread throughout the animal’s body. Sundews and other plants provide energy for animals, similar to what meat does for carnivores.
Eating too many sundews might trigger indigestion but that applies to all foods, not just plants. There are no studies that show sundews are harmful. They are of course, fatal to insects that get trapped.
While sundews are usually eaten by herbivores, some carnivores eat the occasional plant. Cats in particular seem to like sundews but so will other meat eaters. But there is no evidence that it will poison them. The worst that can happen is an upset stomach.
The only time that sundews may prove dangerous to animals is if it is infected. Sundews afflicted with root rot may harbor bacteria or a fungus.
An animal that eats an infected sundew might suffer side effects. What exactly depends on the health of the animal, the type of bacteria or fungus and other variables. Some animals may suffer serious ailments but others may not feel anything at all.
Sundews grow in bogs and watery locations in the wild, which makes them vulnerable to infections. This might not affect animals used to the environment, but it could be dangerous to humans. While sundews are safe to eat, the risk of the plant carrying a disease is real. This is why people should not eat wild sundews.
Why Do Animals Eat Sundews?
Herbivores eat plants and grass for sustenance and nutrition. Just as carnivores eat meat to stay alive, healthy and satisfy their hunger, the same thing applies to plant and grass eating animals.
As noted earlier, herbivores are naturally drawn to sundews and other plants. If you have a cat, you have probably seen them eat grass and plants on more than a few occasions.
Cats eat grass and plants to help with their digestion and remove parasites. Instinctively they know grass contains fiber and other nutrients. However they are particularly drawn to sundews because of its sticky substance.
Sundews produce a sticky stuff called mucilage. It is comprised of water and a mucus like substance that has the consistency of light glue. This substance is found on the tips of the tentacles and leaves.
The substance looks like morning dew, which is how the plant got its name. The mucilage produces a sweet, fruity scent that insects love.
When a bug drops on the mucilage, they immediately get stuck. The sundew tentacles curl around the bug and pull it into the spoon-like leaves to be eaten. This is how sundews eat all their prey including fish food including Cool Mysis Tropical Fish Flakes.
Cats and other animals are drawn to the dew because of its scent and taste. Apparently it is as tasty to them as it is to bugs.
Whether animals eat the plant or the mucilage, there is no need to worry about toxicity. The mucilage kills bugs due to suffocation, not toxicity. Even a small animal is unlikely to choke on the mucilage however. Whether animals eat for the plant or just the dew, it will not be toxic.
Keep in mind that only healthy sundews can produce dew. If yours does not, it is not getting enough sunlight. The plant might be suffering from lack of nutrition as well, so giving it some fish beta pellets can help.
What Should I Do if My Pet Eats Sundew?
If your pet just eats a few sundew leaves or tentacles, there is nothing to worry about. Eating bits and pieces of the plant is not enough to cause an upset stomach, unless your pet is already sick prior to eating.
If your pet eats the entire plant or a lot of it, keep an eye on them. Look for signs of indigestion. Your pet might throw up and feel sick for a while. Give them a few hours to rest, or even the whole day.
Your pet should be fine the next day, or in just a few hours. Take them to the vet if their condition worsens and refuse to eat. You should also check if your pet might have eaten something other than the sundew.
If your pet ate a sundew that was digesting a bug, it might be the cause of discomfort. Cats, dogs and animals might get an upset stomach if they eat a sundew with the remains of a fly, aphid or other insect.
Unless your pet regularly eats sundews, it is unlikely to cause any serious long term effect. Animals that eat sundews in the wild are the ones who are most vulnerable to eating something infected.
If you have a pet with a medical condition and sensitive stomach, keep them away from sundews and other plants. If your pet is indoors, it might be a good idea to leave your sundews outdoors. The plant will benefit from the sun and have plenty of bugs available too.
Your sundew will be fine outdoors especially if it is tropical. They do not go into dormancy so little maintenance is needed. Just make sure the sundew is planted in the right type of soil, that is nutrition free like sphagnum and silica sand. The ideal mixture is one part each. We also recommend Halatool Natural Sphagnum Moss Potting Mix as it is ready to use, ideal for beginners.
Tips For Growing Sundews
So now we have established that sundews are safe fro animals to eat. What is the next step? If you want to buy sundews, here are some tips.
- Know what type of sundews you are buying. The easiest to grow is Cape Sundew. These plants do not go dormant and need little maintenance. Tropical sundew variants do go into dormancy but some temperate sundew species do.
- Follow the caring instructions. Your sundew comes with information on what soil to use, what type of water is best, how much sunlight is needed etc. This can vary by sundew species so follow the guidelines that comes with your specific plant.
- Know the temperature in your area. Check your hardiness zone and use that as a guide for growing the plant.
- Decide if the plant will be indoors or outdoors. This way you can set it up and protect it from your pet.
Wherever you decide to put your sundew, make certain it will have access to nutrients. This will not be a problem outdoors. But if your plant is indoors and on a high bookcase to keep the cat away, you have to feed your sundew.
Give your new sundews time to adjust to its new home. Do not be alarmed if the plant will not eat at first or looks sick. It is adjusting to the temperature, humidity and other variables. After a few weeks your sundews should be fine.
Always keep an eye out for pests and other signs of infection. Take preventive steps and keep your plant as healthy as possible. This way if your pet decides to turn it into a snack, they will not eat something infected.
Sundews are predators to small insects, but they are harmless to animals, including pets. So if you want to buy sundews for your garden, there is no need to worry about your pets eating it.
My fascination with carnivorous plants began many, many years ago with Venus Fly Traps. Now I am more than happy to impart what I know with other enthusiasts and those who are curious about meat eating plants.