The Carnivorous Plant FAQ v. 11.5
- courtesy of -
The International Carnivorous Plant Society

African & Madagascar species1
D. acaulis2
D. admirabilis2,3
D. affinis4
D. afra2
D. alba2
D. aliciae2
D. bequaertii4
D. burkeana5,6
D. capensis2
D. cistiflora2
D. collinsiae2
D. cuneifolia2
D. dielsiana5
D. elongata4
D. ericgreenii2
D. esterhuyseniae2
D. glabripes2
D. hilaris2
D. humbertii6,7
D. indica8
D. katangensis4
D. longiscapa2
D. madagascariensis5,6
D. natalensis5,6
D. nidiformis2
D. pauciflora2
D. pilosa4
D. ramentacea2
D. regia2,9
D. rubrifolia2
D. slackii2
D. trinervia2
D. venusta2,10
D. zeyheri2
1All in Drosera sect. Drosera unless otherwise noted.
2Endemic to South Africa.
3Perhaps a form of D. cuneifolia.
4Tropical Africa.
5Native but not restricted to South Africa.
6Found on Madagascar.
7Endemic to Madagascar.
8In Africa, Asia, and Australia.
9Drosera sect. Arachnopus.
10Classified in Drosera sect. Regiae.
11Perhaps a form of D. natalensis.

Drosera cistiflora
Drosera cistiflora

Drosera collinsiae
Drosera collinsiae

Drosera madagascariensis
D. madagascariensis

Drosera nidiformis
Drosera nidiformis

Q: African and Madagascan Drosera species

A: Africa is an enormous continent, and contains about 65 carnivorous plant species. Many of these are sundews. Most are occur in southern Africa, but there are a few species that are endemic to tropical Africa. The large island of Madagascar, as troubled as it is by extreme deforestation pressures, adds D. humbertii to the inventory of sundews.

South African species
South Africa is well known as a land of spectacular botanical diversity. This is partly because it is one of the few places on the Earth blessed with what is called a Mediterranean climate, that is a hot dry summer and a mildly cool, wet winter. Fire is also a vigorous factor that clears vegetation by frequent burns. These factors contribute to a great botanical biodiversity in the South African landscape (actually, there are many other reasons for the biodiversity, including soils etc., but I would be getting off-track if I started in that direction.)

Most of the Drosera of South Africa fall into three main groups. The first group consists of the flat rosetted species such as D. aliciae. These have leaves that are spathulate (spoon shaped) or perhaps wedge-shaped. It is often very difficult to distinguish one species from the next, and you may need to rely upon technical details I do not wish to delve into. Other species are stem-forming such as D. capensis or D. madagascariensis. The third main group includes the tuber-rooted species such as D. cistiflora. At some point I will describe these all in more detail.

The plant Drosera ×corinthiaca is a naturally occurring hybrid of Drosera aliciae×glabripes.

Drosera indica is sprawling both in habit, and in range, and occurs in much of Africa. The marvelous D. regia is a South African endemic, and has enormous, sword-shaped leaves. It contends for being the largest sundew, depending upon what you are measuring.

As you might expect, there is some controversy regarding these species for example, some feel that the species D. esterhuysenae, D. longiscapa, and D. zeyheri are merely synonyms of D. aliciae, D. madagascariensis , and D. cistiflora, respectively.

Tropical African species
Moving northwards, the continent has several more Drosera species that live in tropical areas. It appears that much of the African continent has been underbotanized with regards to its carnivorous flora, and it would surprise no one if a comprehensive study revealed more species. Political unrest and instability no doubt contributes to this lack of knowledge about Africa.

D. affinis: This species looks much like D. madagascariensis. It produces a basal rosette, which then forms an elongated stem up to 25 cm long. The plant "D. flexicaulis" is probably a synonym. Drosera affinis grows in middle Africa (Angola, Dem. Rep. of Congo,) and eastern Africa (Malawi, Mozambique, Tanzania, Zambia, Zimbabwe).

D. bequaertii: A plant that has a short stem only 3 cm long, and small leaves with petioles 5-8 mm long and leaf blades 4 mm wide and 8 mm long. In the original description, Taton described the plant as having yellow flowers, but this is probably a mistake derived from looking at faded herbarium specimens. The species "D. compacta " is probably the same as D. bequaertii. Drosera bequaertii grows in middle Africa (Angola, Dem. Rep. of Congo).

D. elongata: This scrambling species has an enormously long stem, up to 90 cm long. Leaves are scattered evenly along this stem. Despite the long stem, the leaves are small--the leaf blades are only 3 mm wide and 6 mm long, on petioles 1-1.5 cm long. It grows in middle Africa (Angola).

D. katangensis: A long-stemmed species up to 15 cm tall, with petioles 7-20 mm long, and leaf blades 1.5-5 mm wide and 5-15 mm long. The flowers are white with pink veins. It has been collected in moist plains in middle Africa (Dem. Rep. of Congo).

D. pilosa: Unlike the other stem-forming species of tropical Africa, this is a small, rosetted species with a very hairy surface. The petioles are 3-15 mm long, and the leaf blades are elliptical to obovate, 2-8 mm wide and 4-13 mm long. It is found in western Africa (Guinea), middle Africa(Cameroon), and eastern Africa (Kenya, Tanzania).

If you encounter the name "D. congolana", that indicates something that is probably a synonym for D. madagascariensis. "Drosera insolita" was described as a tuberous species in tropical Africa, but I think this is an error. Alas, I included it in my species lists in my book. Dang.

Drosera capensis
Red Drosera capensis

Many of the showiest South Africa Drosera are also the easiest to grow. These easy species respond to standard carnivorous plant cultivation---peat:sand mix, bright light, warm temperatures, plenty of moisture. Some are so sturdy, they actually have a fighting chance on the "bright windowsill" that has caused the death of so many other carnivorous plants. D. affinis is easy to grow as a tropical Drosera.

Interestingly, plants such as Drosera aliciae, D. capensis, and D. madagascariensis may make a seasoned grower roll his or her eyes in exaggerated boredom, but let's face it---Drosera capensis really is just about the most marvelous species in the entire genus. Just because they are easy to grow and do well in cultivation is no excuse for not appreciating them---it is all the reason to appreciate them even more!

Page citations: D'Amato, P. 1998a; Degreef, J.D. 1990; Fleischmann et al. 2008; Rice, B.A. 2006a; Schlauer, J. 1996, 2002; Taton, A. 1945.

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Revised: January 2010
©Barry Rice, 2005