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Butterwort (Pinguicula) Pinguicula Thumbnail Dormant Pinguicula Thumbnail Pinguicula Roots Thumbnail


Butterwort species are found in many areas of the world, and are well known to orchid growers due to the fact that the butterwort produce most probably the best flowers of the whole carniverous group.
The butterwort belongs to the 'fly-paper' group of carniverous plants. This group have sticky leaves which catch and digest insects which are unlucky enough to land on them.
The butterwort can be found in many damp places, peat bogs, swamps, edges of river beds, areas of rock or flooded fields.

How it works

The leaves of the butterwort are green or yellowish in colour, they are thick and covered in glands which give off a slight odour which attracts the prey. The leaves also curl upwards slightly to try to avoid it's prey being washed off by the rain.
The insect lands on the leaf of the butterwort and will become stuck on the glands. The leaf may curl over slightly in an attempt to increase the surface area contact with the insect.
Mainly the prey consists of small flying insects which get their wings caught in the slime-like substance on the leaves. Crawling insects can normally escape this sticky end however.

The Lifecycle of the Butterwort

As with most other carniverous plants, the butterwort needs a time of winter rest, where the soil is allowed to dampen slightly. For the rest of the year, the plant needs to be kept soggy.
The butterwort will discard that years leaves and produce a small rosette like set of leaves which will not really catch anything for a few months whilst the plant rests over winter.
Once the temperature starts to rise and spring arrives, the larger leaves will start to re-grow again.
The flowers of some of the butterworts are produced throughout the year, whilst some only have one or two shows.
The leaves are discarded after a few weeks, especially if they are getting covered in digested insects.
Since the plant is very low growing, the roots of the butterwort are incredibly small, just enough to keep the plant stable in the ground.

How and where to grow them

  • Grow the plant in the normal type of carniverous plant soil, peat / sphagnum moss / sand.
  • Keep the plant standing in soft water (rain water normally) throughout the year, only letting the soil dry out slightly during the winter.
  • Remove any leaves which turn brown and dry up.
  • Feeding can be achieved by dropping any small insect, alive or dead, straight onto the leaves.

What I am growing

I have three types of Pinguicula,

  • P. 'weser'. I'm not sure if this is the exact name, since I cannot find it in any books. However, it is the standard type of pinguicula with the sticky leaves. It's about 6 inches in diameter and has quite large oval shaped leaves, normally up to six at a time. It flowers almost continuously throughout the warmer months. Last year I could just get two flowers (dark pink colour) at the same time, one opening as the other went over. This year, however, it's producing three flowers at a time!
    It will soom be going into it's dormancy stage since some of the leaves produced reciently are getting smaller than normal.
  • P. primuliflora. It's smaller than the P. weser at about 2 inches in diameter. There are about 4 plants in the pot which I bought. It has the remains of two mauve flowers both of which seem to have white centres. Apart from that, there's not much to add!
  • P. ehlersae is even smaller than P. primuliflora. At least, it is for me! There are three or four small plants in this one pot, none of which are larger than one inch in diameter! In fact, they are having trouble coping with the moss growing around the plant, I've had to trim the moss back a little to stop it swamping the poor plants. These were bought earlier in the year, but I've no idea how old they are. I suspect they are most likely fully grown already. Not produced any flowers in over a year.

Written by SteveC