As spring arrives the leaves get larger ready to catch insects. The leaves seen up close have short hairs.The flowering stems grow to a height of 5 - 15cm and culminate in a single violet flower, which appears from May to July.
The flower was sometimes called Valentine's Flower - as it was used in times gone by as " dream-enhancer". If you had someone in mind you would like to dream about, you could greatly improve your chances of seeing them in your dreams by putting a butterwort flower under your pillow.
Second Species in The Western Isles
In the Western Isles there is also a smaller more delicate species called pale butterwort which flowers later in the year.
The Common Butterworts belongs to the 'fly-paper' group of carnivorous plants. As the habitat where it grows is so poor in nutrients it has developed its art in catching insects. Butterwort has sticky leaves which catch & digest insects. The leaves curl over insects and glands on the leaf secrete enzymes which digest the soft parts of their prey.
The leaves are green or yellowish in colour. The leaves are thick and covered in glands which give off a slight smell 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 becomes stuck on the glands. The leaf may curl over slightly in an attempt to increase the surface area contact with the insect.
The prey are small flying insects whose wings catch in the slimy substance on the leaves. The insects are probably dead by then, having died of suffocation when their respiratory spiracles became glued up.
Crawling insects can normally escape this sticky end however. begin the slow process of digesting them with the help of acid-containing glands. The leaves once having caught the insects are actually discarded - especially if they have been successful in catching a lot of insects.
|Inches and cm sizes are approximate|