The Carnivorous Plant FAQ v. 12

Q: What is the genus Dipsacus like?

A: Dipsacus is a genus of about 15 species from Europe, Asia, and Africa. The genus name derives from a Greek word for thirst, which notes the fact that the leaves are often joined together at the stem (i.e. they are perfoliate) in such a way as to create receptacles that fill with fluid--presumably dew and rainwater.

I am only familiar with Dipsacus fullonum--which I have encountered in the USA as a non-native weed. (It is likely I have seen other species too, but just called them D. fullonum in a display of reprehensible botanical laziness.) I must admit that the perfoliate leaves make extraordinary, water-retentive structures. What is more, these water-filled leaf axils often include dead and rotting insects and other invertebrates. Very strange. I wonder, if someone were to test these plants more carefully for carnivorous behavior, what the results would be. Radio-isotope testing, anyone?

This is a distinctive genus--there is nothing else like it, at least in the USA. If you see a plant that looks like it growing on the roadside, I can not think of anything else it might be. The fruiting stalks are retained through the death of the plant; the dark and elliptical stalk-heads are easily seen among roadside weeds.

Page citations: Hickman (ed.) 1993; Schnell 2002a; personal observations.

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Revised: 2018
©Barry Rice, 2018