Drosera regia – the King Sundew

With 2 foot (0.6 m) leaves the King Sundew, Drosera regia, has earned its grandiose name. It is an archaic species and one of the oldest to survive to modern times. It’s a distant cousin of Venus flytraps (Dionaea muscipula). It leaves me both saddened and relieved that such large traps didn’t make the jump to Venus flytraps.
Unfortunately, D. regia is exceedingly rare in the wild, believed to only exist in two small colonies in South Africa. Luckily, they’re relatively easy to propagate via root cuttings in cultivation, and take kindly to a light foliar fertilizing for maximum healthy growth.

Unique biology of Drosera regia

Trap characteristics

Drosera regia leaves are shaped like swords, but don’t stab. Instead, like most sundews, they stick and grasp onto prey. With 2 foot (0.6 m) leaves, prey options are vast. Leaf movement can be dramatic, with both glands and full leaves coiling around prey to increase surface area relative to the insect – a means of extracting maximum nutrients. The tenticular glands produce a thick, sticky mucilage that helps the giant leaves adhere to prey.
The plants slowly grow stems over the top of older leaves. Thick roots frequently sprout new plants, forming clumping carnivorous bushes.
Flowers are 1 1/2 inches (3.8 cm) wide, a deep pink color, and cluster along 2 foot (0.6 m) flower stalks. Drosera regia flowering is a draining process, and will weaken the plant over time. Feel free to remove flowers to sustain healthy growth.

Other notable characteristics

They grow well in large pots of 20% perlite to 80% part long-fibered sphagnum moss using the water tray method. Keep them outdoors in cool, frostless climates, or indoors in warm and cool greenhouses. Coastal California windowsills are a great spot. Do note that the plants will reduce in size, or occasionally die back during winter months, but will regrow from the robust root system during warmer weather.

On the topic of roots – Drosera regia don’t take kindly to being disturbed, so once established in large pots, leave them be for multiple years. Any roots that start growing out of the bottom of the pot can be cut off for root cutting propagation (see second photo above for an example of a sprouted root cutting).

*Drosera regia flower & sprout photos courtesy of Djoni Crawford.

Other Drosera varieties, species & hybrids