Tag Archives: flower

Sundew, plant that eats insects


Pitcher plant is the most well-known carnivorous plant of Sabah, but very few know that Sabah also has sundews (or Drosera), another type of insectivorous plant that traps and “eats” insects. There are over 190 species of sundews (Drosera species) and they are widespread in the world. Anyway, Sabah sundew is an interesting “discovery” for me.

comparison of size: 5-cent coin and Sundews
I guess the reason most people don’t see sundews is because they are tiny. As shown in photo above, each plant is about the size of a 5-cent coin. They are almost invisible to those who are not actively looking for them. However, its bright color leaves make my search easier.


Drosera burmannii
Sundews usually grow in acidic wet soil. This plant needs a lot of moisture, so you may spot them in the humid area of swamp, island and even highland. I found some at the sandy river bank of Binsuluk River near Membakut. It is probably a Drosera burmannii species (tropical sundew).

Drosera of Sabah
As the soil in which they grow is infertile, sundews lure and trap insects with their sticky tentacles. Once they capture the insect, they will digest it and absorb its nutrition and minerals as a supplement.

close-up of Drosera
close-up of Sundew
Sundew is very small, so I have to use special lens like a microscope to zoom-into its rosette for photo-taking. It is a very beautiful (but odd) plant when seen up-close.

sundew tentacles topped with sticky secretions
mucilage at the tip of sundew tentacles
Check out the droplets at the tip of its tentacles. They look like morning dew, right? That’s why they are called sundew, which means Dew of the Sun. Actually these droplets are mucilage, a sticky secretion that glues the prey such as ant.

Sundew, the carnivorous plant
Sundews are fun to look at (especially during feeding time), so someone even keeps them as “pet”. Sundews are protected plant in some countries. I don’t think Sabah or Malaysia has any law to protect sundews.

Sundew plant of Sabah
Sundew has long stem that carries flowers far away from the sticky trap of its base, so it won’t accidentally trap its pollinators.

flowers of Sundew
Pic: The flower and buds of sundew.

Sabah sundews
To confirm my specimen is really a carnivorous plant, I purposely put a few ants on its leaves. Note the leaf at the right has very long outer tentacles, which are also known as snap-tentacles. In nature, the sweet mucilage of sundew can attract insects.

ant struggled in Sundew trap
The trap works. The sticky mucilage immobilizes the ants. Their movement becomes slower and slower. The more they struggle, the more they are enveloped by mucilage. Bigger ants are still able to escape in my experiment.

insect trapped and digested by sundew
The final blow comes, when the movement triggers the inner and outer tentacles of sundew to bend toward the ants, pressing them to contact more sticky mucilage (see photo above). As a result, the ants are either die of exhaustion or asphyxiation in about half an hour. Sundew will then secrete enzymes to digest the captured prey, dissolving it into nutrient soup for consumption.

I’m glad that sundews don’t eat human.

Photos taken in Sabah, Malaysia Borneo

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The Most Expensive Orchid in the world

Rothschild's Slipper Orchid

Do you know Sabah has the most expensive orchid in the world?

Come meet Rothschild’s Slipper Orchid (species: Paphiopedilum rothschildianum) from Kinabalu Park. This orchid is sold for USD5,000 per stem in black market.

Paphiopedilum rothschildianum or Rothschild's Slipper
There are 3 reasons why Rothschild’s Slipper Orchid, “the aristocrat of all slipper orchids”, is so expensive:

  1. It’s a rare and endangered species, endemic to Kinabalu Park.
  2. It takes 15 years to grow and bloom.
  3. It’s beautiful!

Sumazau Orchid
It’s also locallly known as Sumazau Orchid, because the long sweeping side petals of flower look like the outspread arms of dancer of Sumazau, the most popular traditional dance of Sabah (see photos below).

Sumazau dance

Sumazau dance by Kadazan couple

The stem of Sumazau Orchid can hold up to six flowers, but usually it is only 3 to 4 flowers. Someone told me that the flower of Rothschild’s Slipper Orchid in the wild has brighter red color.

Gold of Kinabalu
Due to its high value, it also earns the nickname “Gold of Kinabalu”. Rothschild’s Slipper Orchid only grows on the slope of Mt. Kinabalu between 500 and 1,200 Meters in altitude. Most local villagers and orchid smugglers know this and steal the flower, making them vulnerable to extinction. I know a ranger in Sabah Parks once fined a tourist RM1,000 for stealing orchid from the national park.

Orchid Conservation Center of Poring

entrance of Orchid Conservation Center
Well, though I can’t afford to buy Rothschild’s Slipper Orchid, I can afford to see it at Orchid Garden of Poring Hot Springs park for only a few dollars (Ticket Fee: RM5≈USD1.50 for Malaysian adult, RM10≈USD3 for foreigner adult).

Research and Education Building
You can buy the ticket from Poring Conservation Center (see photo above) not far away from the Orchid Garden. The Orchid Garden of Poring is open daily from 9am to 4pm.

Orchid Garden of Poring

Poring Orchid Farm
Besides the famous Sumazau Orchid, there are 600 orchid species in this garden, which includes other famous orchid such as Renanthera bella, Phalaenopsis gigantea, Phalaenopsis labukensis, Dimorphorchis rossii and Bulbophyllum species.

native Borneo orchid
Most of the native orchids have tiny flowers so you have to search carefully. The garden is quite big, orchid lovers could spend a full day here just to look for different orchid flowers.

lace orchid
Above: Coelogyne rhabdobulbon orchid species

native orchid
There is an estimated 2,000+ orchid species in Borneo, and you can find over 700 species (belonging to 121 genera) in Kinabalu Park alone, which is over 30 percent of Borneo orchid species.

green orchid
Above: Green Orchid

More Photos

You may check out my photo album on Poring for more nice pictures:
Photo gallery of Poring

Related posts:
The largest orchid leaf in the world
The longest orchid leaf in the world

Other articles about Poring Hot Springs Park:

  1. Poring Hot Springs bath
  2. Poring Canopy Walkway
  3. Gardens of Poring
  4. Accommodation at Poring
  5. Jackie, orangutan who owns a house
  6. Waterfalls of Poring
  7. Night walk in Poring rainforest

Photos taken in Poring, Sabah, Malaysia Borneo

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