There are only three types of carnivorous plants native to the UK and last weekend I spent a day by Megget Reservoir in the Scottish Borders looking for two of them … the Sundew and Butterwort.
The area around Megget and Talla Reservoirs is a place I never get tired of visiting. Once you get away from the surprisingly busy single-track road running through the valley it can feel quite remote. The ground can be very boggy or rough, and this time of year has some great colours with the fire grass growing in the valley.
Sundews are tiny, and quite easy to miss if you don’t know what to look for. They live in wet habitats where the acidic conditions limits the amount of nutrients they can take from the ground. These plants supplement their diet by catching and digesting insects. The round leaves have hair-like tendrils with glistening droplets that are very sticky to passing insects.
This plant was used to create a potion said to be the source of strength, virility and longevity which resulted in an alternative name for it – youthwort.
Photographing small plants that grow in such wet conditions can be a challenge. Even after laying down on a waterproof sheet, I ended up getting soaked with muddy black knees and hands. It also took me sometime to find plants I could get a decent low angle at without submerging the camera in the mud.
Watching my camera bag slowly sinking into the boggy ground when I thought it was safe on a dry raised mound, and frequently catching my diffuser panel before the wind took it across the valley are all parts of the outdoor photography experience I enjoy.
Butterwort is easier to spot due to its size and bright yellow-green leaves. They excrete a sticky fluid, which attracts unsuspecting insects and traps them by slowly curling around their prey. I’ve never seen them move like this even though I’ve watched insects sticking to the leaves, so it must happen very slowly.
It was thought to have magical properties and the juices from the leaves were rubbed onto cows’ udders in order to protect the milk from evil.
The third Carnivorous plant found in the UK is the Bladderwort, which is found in deep, still fresh water. It has no roots, and instead catches insects in bladders under the water. I haven’t found any around the Scottish Borders yet, and can’t help thinking I’m going to be getting wet again trying.