One of the most exciting aspects of looking at alpine flora is the close relationship with insects. In our mountain meadows you can see colourful butterflies and buzzing honey bees frolicking around from flower to flower. Sometimes the relationship between a flower and its pollinating insect is so close that the two are completely adapted to each other, but things are not always friendly between insects and plants….
A Butterwort: An insect trap
The alpine butterwort (Pinguicula alpina) attracts small insects with a sweet substance on its light green leaves. However, it’s a trap: as soon as the small insects land on the attractive leaves, they get stuck to the same sticky substance which attracted them in the first place. butterworts are carnivorous which allows the plant to supplement its diet with the nutrients that are released during the digestion of the trapped insects. That’s why alpine butterworts can grow well on poor soils.
Alpine butterworts are not the only insectivorous plants that you can find during your hiking trip in the Alps. You might also see some common butterwort (Pinguicula vulgaris) with small purple flowers. Other carnivorous species that thrive in the Alps are round-leaved sundew (Drosera rotundifolia) and long-leaved sundew (Drosera longifolia). These species catch insects with their red, sticky tentacles. When small animals get stuck, the sundew’s leaf rolls itself around the prey to digest it.
Spotting carnivorous plants
Sundews as well as butterworts love boggy areas which are low in nutrients, so look for them in moist patches right next to your path while trekking through the Alps. If your Tour du Mont Blanc trip takes you over the Col the Montets, keep your eyes peeled when you’re close to the Nature Information Centre: both sundew and butterwort thrive there!
More about flora in the Alps:
- Spring flowers in the Alps: The extraordinary story of Anemone hepatica – April 7, 2019
- Edelweiss – The Symbol of the Alps – Sep 26, 2018
- Flora in the Alps: Pollinators in High Elevations – June 5, 2019
- Flora in the Alps – Why are mosses so special? – April 14, 2019
- Flora in the Alps – Why are lichen so special? – March 17, 2019