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Sundews are nice to look at, but more than their appearance people love these plants because they eat bugs. If you ever seen a drosera digest an insect, you have probably also wondered, what would happen if an animal or human ate sundews? What would be the consequences? Is it harmless or dangerous?
Humans and animals can eat home grown sundews without any serious side effects. However, sundews that grow in the wild might carry bacteria which could cause health problems.
What Happens If You Eat Sundews?
The idea you could die from eating sundews probably stems from the way it catches and eats insects. But sundews do not use poison to trap and eat insects, and there are no toxic elements in the plant.
If you eat sundews your body will try to break it down just like other food. Sundews are not poisonous so you are safe. However, the plant might cause indigestion or stomach discomfort. This is only temporary and will not cause any serious long term damage.
The only exception is if you have food allergies. Some people suffer adverse reactions when they eat certain types of food. While sundews are eaten by animals, they are not what people usually consume, so keep that in mind.
If you have digestive problems, do not eat sundews. While it is unlikely to cause serious long term damage, it could lead to stomach pain.
There are no conclusive reports of sundews causing indigestion, but why take the risk? If you already have this condition you should take steps to avoid food triggers.
If you do not have food allergies or digestion issues, you should have no problems eating sundews. Some have eaten this plant and reported no ill effects. The worst things about it are probably its taste (subjective of course) and the possibility your stomach might disagree with it.
Regardless which drosera variant you eat, chances of becoming ill are very low. The only exception is if the plant has been contaminated (more on that later). Otherwise you will be fine.
Sundews may look creepy to some, and for small bugs these plants are lethal. But humans do not have to worry. Whether you eat sundews by accident or on purpose, the plant will not release any toxic elements in your body.
Are There Benefits to Eating Sundews?
Sundews are used in alternative medicine to treat a variety of ailments, but its efficiency is up for debate. If you want to eat sundews for medicinal purposes, consult your doctor first because it might interact with other medications you take.
If you just want eat sundew out of curiosity or experiment, you probably will not see any benefits. While sundews will not harm you, it will not do you any good either.
The other question here is the taste. That is of course subjective, but there are a lot of other edible plants that you can try out. And there are other things to consider if you decide to eat a sundew.
What if the plant just caught an insect and is digesting it? Do you really want that bug, covered in mucilage, as a snack? Some people might, but for most that is a pass.
How Sundews Eat Insects
Let us take a closer look at how sundews eat bugs and why it does not make sense to eat them, even if it will not harm you.
Sundews eat insects because they require nutrients. With non-carnivorous plants, these nutrients are obtained from the soil. Rich, fertilized soil supply plants with nitrogen and other elements needed for growth.
Sundews only grow in poor soil. There is little to no nitrogen in the ground so they get it from flies, mosquitos and other insects. Once sundews catch a bug, it releases enzymes to break down its tissues
Only healthy sundews can produce dew. If yours does not, it probably is not getting enough light or water. Make sure the soil is always moist too.
If your sundew does not catch enough bugs, give it some fish food or freeze dried mealworms. They are a good substitute for bugs and provide the nutrients the plant requires.
There are a lot of freeze dried ,mealworms for sundews, but one we like is Liwii Dried Mealworms as it is nutritious for these plants. If you would rather give it fish food, our choice is Cool Mysis Tropical Fish Flakes.
Sundews produce mucilage, a sticky substance that looks like dew to attract insects. The insect gets stuck in the dew and the plant tentacles wrap itself around the prey, squeezing it tight. When the bug dies, sundews start releasing its digestive enzymes.
So what does that have to do with eating sundews? As you can see, the plant does not use poison to kill its prey. Their enzymes are not toxic either. It is fatal to insects yes, but not to people.
The sticky stuff sundews produce are meant to draw bugs into their trap. It kills prey by suffocating them with this substance, but that is not going to happen with people.
What are the Side Effects of Eating Sundews?
While sundews are not poisonous, we cannot discount the possibility of side effects. As noted earlier, these include stomach upset and indigestion. But another possible side effect is bacteria or parasites in the plant.
This is most likely to happen with sundews that grow in the wild. If you grow sundews at home, you can keep an eye on the plant and make sure it is healthy. If the plant is well cared for, you should not worry about infection or serious side effects.
But if you are picking sundews from the wild, avoid eating it. These plants grow in watery locations like bogs, which could attract bacteria or fungi.
It is also possible that animals might pass diseases into the plant. All kinds of herbivores feed on sundews and you will never know which of them might carry a disease or parasite. The bacteria itself might not harm the plant, but it might be dangerous for humans.
The point is that while sundews are generally not harmful to people (assuming you have no allergies or suffer from indigestion), there is no good reason to eat the plant either. The only real reason is to see if it is possible. And as we have explained, yes it is possible and yes it will not put you at risk.
What if Animals Eat Sundews?
Sundews do not pose danger to animals. In fact it is the plant that is in danger of being eaten.
If your pet eats your sundews, nothing serious will happen. They will probably have a mild case of stomach upset but that is it. The effect of sundews on animals is the same as on humans, and that means not a lot.
Sundews are only menacing to tiny insects. For large animals the plant poses no danger. Even if an animal bites off the leaves, the dew, roots or the whole plant, it is not going to be fatal.
Again the only exception is if the plant is sick. A cat that eats sundews with root rot might get sick. Root rot might be caused by overwatering or bacterial infection, and if it is bacteria, that will end up in the animal so it might cause problems.
If you want to grow sundews, make sure to follow these guidelines.
- Always keep the soil moist. Sundews love water so do not let the soil dry out. Even though they get nutrients from insects, sundews still need soil.
- Sundews need light. 12 hours of light is ideal for these plants. They need light for photosynthesis which they use to produce glucose. Glucose and insect nutrients along with mealworms provide sundews with the sustenance they require.
- Do not play with a sundew. Do not touch the plant to see if it will bite. Doing so will put the sundews under a great deal of stress and could slow its growth.
Eating sundews will not harm you. As has been explained here, the plant uses the dew to lure insects and is not toxic. Even so there is no reason to eat sundews as there are no benefits to be derived from snacking on the plant.
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.