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Drosera graomogolensis: A South American Jewel

The South American sundews often present as rather enigmatic to carnivorous plant growers. Some just haven't been introduced to cultivation (or remain extremely rare for one reason or other), while others tend to be picky about their growing conditions because of the elevation or specialized soil types they grow in. They remain coveted however, because these species are also some of the most striking, unusual, and beautiful sundews in their prime.

There are a handful of SA species that are more readily acquired though, and somewhat easier to grow. Among the most familiar (but no less beautiful) is Drosera graomogolensis, a highlander endemic to the mountain ranges of southeastern Brazil.

Described in the early 1990's, this sundew was originally thought to be a very localized endemic around the town of Grão Mogol, from which it gets its name. As expeditions to the area have become more frequent however the species has been discovered in many more locales. Currently it is still considered an endemic of the Espinhaço range, one of the mountain spines that runs through the southern Brazilian plateau and splits central Minas Gerais state. D. graomogolensis has so far only been collected within that state, but the range continues north into Bahia and it is suspected this species may occur there as well alongside some of its other relatives.

Though considered a highland species, one of the reasons D. graomogolensis may lend itself to easier cultivation is that its elevational range extends down into intermediate bordering on lowland levels, from 700-1400 meters or so in elevation. The species tends actually to be more common near the lower end of its altitudinal distribution, and is found in a wide range of habitats, often drier than most of its relatives prefer in cerrado vegetation, near ephemeral springs, and in a variety of sandy and often quartz-based soils. Some populations though are also known to grow in permanent wet seeps often in the company of sphagnum, and one location even along a riverbank.

Though smaller than some of its relatives, this species is not a small sundew by any means. Fully grown healthy plants can exceed more than 12 cm across, developing erect stems up to 6 cm or more in height and covered in lengthy oblong-lanceolate leaves that unfurl in a semi-erect fashion and splay out in all directions. Colored in brilliant shades of green and crimson, the leaves are also coated on their backsides in long, silvery woolly hairs that contrast the bright colors and provide a very attractive appearance. As the leaves age, they slowly fold down until they finally senesce and hang as a thick draping skirt around the stem. Triggered by seasonal changes usually in temperature and moisture, these plants will also produce very tall scapes bearing numerous large, bright pink flowers. I have not yet, sadly, managed to trigger mine to bloom, but some have claimed them to be at least somewhat self-fertile.

View from above. Being that it often shrinks over summer, this specimen is nowhere near full size for the species even now.

In my experience, what this species is planted in doesn't matter too much as long as it's fairly open and well-draining. Peat mixes in the past have been a little denser than they should have been, which can contribute to this species' dislike of higher summer temperatures here, but anything with a high amount of large-grain silica/quartz sand or perlite tends to be acceptable. Seen in the photos here, it is currently growing in a sphagnum/perlite mix, in which it does quite well also. Whatever is used, make sure to grow it in a deep pot; the roots of this species can exceed more than a foot in length if allowed and tend to be quite thick.

A constant moisture level that is moderate but not wet is good, though letting it dry out slightly more during winter seasons can help trigger blooming. Temperatures are preferred to be no higher than 75-80° F during the day, and drops into the 60's or mid-50's at night help maintain good health. Lighting must be very bright as this species hails from open, exposed habitats at relatively high elevations; strong LED sources or even full sun is preferable in order to keep them healthy and develop the strongest coloration.

If seeds are produced, they should be sown on the surface of the soil mix of choice; they do not require special treatment and should be kept in the conditions of the adult plants. I have also found that, while it can take some time, leaf cuttings of this species are possible especially if floated in water. Buds can take upwards of 2 months or more to develop, but then grow extremely rapidly. Most effective perhaps though, are root cuttings. The thick roots of this species lend well to the practice, and so long as only one or two are taken from any particular plant so as not to stress it too much they can be sliced into short sections and laid on or just under the soil surface to sprout.

D. graomogolensis is still relatively rare in cultivation compared to other species, but it is rapidly becoming a fairly commonplace species, and certainly one of the most commonly grown of the hairy South American plants. If you don't have the conditions to grow demanding highlanders like D. graminifolia, villosa, or magnifica, this one is still a great option for a similar looking but far more forgiving species, and a must for any display.

The characteristic oblong-lanceolate leaves of the species, and a close-up shot of the silvery indumentum covering the backsides of unfurling leaves. Full-size plants may develop leaves that are nearly linear along their length, tapering only just at either end.

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