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If you have ever seen a sundew eat a bug, the thought has probably crossed your mind. What would happen if you touch the plant? Will you be stuck permanently? Will its tentacles wrap around your hand? There are a lot of misconceptions about this topic, and this article will clear things up for you.
Sundews feel sticky to touch, but you can pull off your finger easily. The sticky part has consistency like glue but it comes off human skin without causing irritation.
What Happens If I Put My Finger on a Sundew?
This question is often asked about Venus flytraps and other carnivorous plants. But is there anything to worry about if you touch the sticky stuff?
Nothing will happen to your finger if you touch a sundew. The sticky stuff is called mucilage and feels like glue, but it is very light. It has the consistency of mucus and will stick to your skin. But you can easily pull it off without feeling pain.
So there is nothing to worry about if you touch the mucilage. But you should avoid touching it because this might be harmful to sundews. Touching sundews will not hurt you, but it could harm the plant, in some cases seriously.
Even if you press your finger on its tip, nothing will happen. The worst thing that could occur is you get mucilage on your fingertip. But you can wash it off. And no, sundews cannot eat people.
Unless you are very sensitive, you will not get any skin rashes or irritation. Of course if you have sensitive skin or allergies, do not touch sundews or other carnivorous plants.
Why Sundews Produce Dew
Sundews produce dew or mucilage to trap insects, not human fingers. While the material will not hold down your finger, it can trap a small insect like a fly, gnat or ant.
If you keep touching the dew it might eventually come off. Sundews cannot eat insects without mucilage, so it is important you avoid touching it. That substance is for catching insects and will have no effect on the human skin.
Only healthy sundews can produce dew. If yours does not, this could be due to lack of light, water or worse root rot. Sundews can live on light, water and air, but insects provide nutrients that help the plant grow.
Can Sundews Hurt You?
Watching a sundew catch and digest its prey is both interesting and scary. This naturally brings up the question: am I in any danger if I touch sundews?
Sundews cannot harm humans. They are very small and its tentacles cannot wrap around or wound your finger. The sticky substance is not harmful to people and very unlikely to cause health problems.
The more mucilage your sundew has, the healthier it is. You can help your plant grow faster by making sure it eats 1-4 times a month. Alternatively you can buy fish food or freeze dried mealworms which are just as nutritious. Using Jessi Mae Carnivorous Plant Soil Conditioner also improves the soil which helps the plant stay strong.
This idea that sundews can harm humans is incorrect. To dispel this myth we need to take a closer look at how sundews catch insects and why you are safe. If you have ever used flypaper to get rid of flies, you already have a good idea of how sundews lure and trap their prey.
The tentacles on a sundew are covered with mucilage. Flies, spiders, aphids and other bugs can detect its scent and are drawn to it. When they land on the mucilage, they immediately get stuck. The tentacle closes up on the bug and pulls it further into the plant.
The bug get strangled by the mucilage and dies. The sundew releases enzymes to digest it, which can take up to a week.
That is basically how sundews catch and eat insects. The plant does not release any poison as the bug dies due to suffocation. Unless you shrink to the size of a fly, you will be fine.
Sundews will not release digestive enzymes unless the prey has been completely covered in mucilage. So you do not have to worry about being harmed by this carnivorous plant.
What if My Pet Touches or Eats My Sundews?
This is a common concern among pet owners. Even if you try to keep sundews as far from pets as possible, somehow they always seem to find a way to grab or eat them. So is your pet in any danger in case they eat the plant?
Dogs and cats will not be harmed if they eat sundews. The worst thing that can happen is indigestion, but aside from that there are no long term side effects.
Sundews do not contain any toxic elements. In fact there is research going on to determine their medicinal value, so you can rest easy if your cat decides to snack on it.
Sundews are in more danger from cats and dogs than them harming animals, so you should store the plant where your pet cannot reach it.
That can be difficult especially with cats. The best solution is to give your pet some toys to distract them. A well fed cat is unlikely to eat sundews too. This applies to dogs and any other pets you might have.
If your pet does eat a sundew, observe them. In most cases they will not show any ill effects, though some will have indigestion. Of course if your cat has a special condition or particular about food, make sure they never eat sundews. But other than that your pet should be fine.
Even though sundews look deadly, your pets are safe. As any plant owner will tell you, it is the plant that needs protection. So if you are going to buy a sundew and have pets, consider the setup and how you can keep the plant at a safe distance.
What Else Should I Know about Touching Sundews?
Due to their carnivorous nature, sundews have had some people worried about their safety and their pets. But as we have explained, nothing bad will occur if you touch it. Similarly animals will not be harmed.
Here are some things that you should keep in mind before you decide to grow sundews.
- Do not touch its leaves. You will not be harmed but doing so is detrimental to the plant. Repeated touching could cause it to lose dew needed to trap insects. So do not touch the plant especially its sticky parts.
- Keep the plant safe from pets. As explained earlier, sundews are vulnerable to animals and children. So decide where you want to place the plant and how you can keep it safe.
- Provide proper care. Sundews require 6-12 hours of light, moist soil and good airflow. They also need to eat 1-4 times a month. Nutrients like Garden Elixir Carnivorous Plant Food can also accelerate their growth.
- Do not give sundews human food. They are not capable of eating the stuff humans and animals eat.
There are different types of sundews, but none of them are dangerous. The more you learn about sundews, the more you will realize that they are safe to be kept outdoors or indoors. They need proper nourishment to survive and will suffer in stressful environments.
By stressful environment that refers to instances where the plant is repeatedly poked. Unlike Venus flytraps, you do not even need to touch sundews to feed them. Just drop the bug into the sticky part and the plant will eat it.
Sundews also require patience. If you just bought one, give the plant some time to get used to its new home. If it does not eat anything for the first few days, that is all right. Resist the urge to touch the plant and find out if something is wrong.
Lastly, share your knowledge about sundews to everyone in your home. This will prevent any incidents of accidental touching of its leaves.
Sundews are carnivorous plants, but their diet is limited to insects and other small creatures. Your fingers are perfectly safe and in fact, touching the plant poses more danger to it than to you.
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.