Unique Structure and Sunlight Efficiency of the Underwater Form of Sundew Plants

Jenn Hoskins
24th May, 2024

Unique Structure and Sunlight Efficiency of the Underwater Form of Sundew Plants

Image Source: Natural Science News, 2024

Key Findings

  • The study, conducted in acidic bogs, found that Drosera intermedia can grow submerged up to 20 cm deep
  • Submerged habitats had the highest pH, temperature, and hydration levels but the lowest light levels
  • The submerged form of D. intermedia had unique features like taller main stems, more living leaves, and fewer dead leaves compared to other forms
Drosera intermedia, commonly known as the oblong-leaved sundew, is a carnivorous plant renowned for its adaptability to various environmental conditions. A recent study conducted by researchers at the University of Gdansk[1] aimed to investigate the environmental conditions and morphological characteristics of its submerged form, which thrives in acidic bogs and can endure prolonged submersion. The study revealed that D. intermedia can grow submerged to depths of 20 cm. These submerged habitats exhibited the highest pH (4.71–4.92), the highest temperature and hydration levels, and the lowest photosynthetically active radiation (PAR; 20.4–59.4%) compared to emerged and peatland forms. The submerged form displayed unique architectural features, such as the tallest main axis height (exceeding 18 cm), a significant number of living leaves (18.1 ± 8.1), and a minimal number of dead leaves (6.9 ± 3.8). The submerged leaves of D. intermedia were notably shorter in length (0.493 ± 0.15 mm) but generally wider than those of the other forms. Additionally, the stem cross-sectional area was smaller, with less developed xylem and collaterally closed vascular bundles. These anatomical adaptations suggest a specialized mechanism for survival in submerged conditions. The chlorophyll fluorescence parameters indicated that the submerged form of D. intermedia had the highest maximum quantum yield of primary photochemistry of photosystem II (0.681) and the highest maximum quantum yield of electron transport (0.183). Interestingly, the efficiency of energy use per active reaction center of photosystem II (RC) was the lowest (2.978), as was the fraction of energy trapped by one active RC (1.976) and the non-photochemical energy dissipation (0.916). However, the efficiency of energy utilization for electron transport by one RC (ET0/RC) was the highest (0.489). These findings suggest that the relatively high photosynthetic efficiency of the submerged forms allows them to utilize most of the trapped energy for photosynthesis with minimal energy loss. This efficiency may compensate for the smaller leaf blade size, supporting the plant's growth and survival in low-light, submerged environments. Previous studies have highlighted the adaptability and variability of Drosera species in different habitats. For instance, D. intermedia was found to occupy substrates with the highest pH but the lowest conductivity, poorest organic matter, and least hydration among three studied Drosera species[2]. This adaptability is further supported by the current study, which shows that D. intermedia can also thrive in submerged conditions with distinct morphological and anatomical adaptations. Additionally, the study's findings align with earlier research on the bioactive compounds in Drosera species, which have significant pharmaceutical potential[3][4]. The submerged form's high photosynthetic efficiency and unique architectural features could influence the production of these valuable secondary metabolites, further enhancing the plant's medicinal value. Overall, this study from the University of Gdansk provides valuable insights into the environmental adaptability and morphological specialization of D. intermedia's submerged form. These findings contribute to our understanding of the ecological versatility of carnivorous plants and their potential applications in medicine and other fields.

EnvironmentEcologyPlant Science


Main Study

1) Individual architecture and photosynthetic performance of the submerged form of Drosera intermedia Hayne

Published 23rd May, 2024


Related Studies

2) Effects of Environmental Conditions on the Individual Architectures and Photosynthetic Performances of Three Species in Drosera.


3) Carnivorous Plants from Nepenthaceae and Droseraceae as a Source of Secondary Metabolites.


4) Phytochemistry of the carnivorous sundew genus Drosera (Droseraceae) - future perspectives and ethnopharmacological relevance.


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