The spoon-leaf sundew is an insectivore. Unable to obtain sufficient nutrients from the poor-quality soil in which it takes root, the plant traps insects, like this hapless fly.

The "dew" of the sundew is actually mucilage. Mucilage is a thick, sticky substance secreted by some plants. The runny, sticky "juice" of the aloe vera plant, for instance, is mucilage.

Mucilage collects on the sundew's tentacles. Tentacles are the thin stalks on the sundew's narrow leaves.

Small insects step into the sweet-tasting mucilage and become stuck. Mucilage is not dangerously toxic—insects are not poisoned. Instead, the animals are either suffocated by the thick substance or die from exhaustion trying to escape.

The sundew's leaves cannot absorb nutrients directly. So, after it has killed its victim, the plant slowly rolls the tiny carcass up to its stem. (That's what's happening in this photograph.) There, the stem releases digestive fluids. Nutrients from the insect are absorbed and the leaf unfurls its deadly, mucilaginous tentacles once again.

absorb
Verb

to soak up.

carcass
Noun

dead body.

Noun

water droplets condensed from the atmosphere onto cool surfaces near the ground.

digestive fluid
Noun

natural secretions that help break down food as part of the digestion process.

exhaustion
Noun

extreme weakness and fatigue.

hapless
Adjective

unlucky.

insectivore
Noun

organism that mostly eats insects.

leaf
Noun

organ growing from the stem of a plant.

mucilage
Noun

sticky, gel-like secretion of some plants.

Noun

substance an organism needs for energy, growth, and life.

root
Noun

part of a plant that secures it in the soil, obtains water and nutrients, and often stores food made by leaves.

secrete
Verb

to discharge a substance.

soil
Noun

top layer of the Earth's surface where plants can grow.

stem
Noun

main stalk of a plant.

sufficient
Adjective

enough or adequate.

suffocate
Verb

to be unable to breathe.

sundew
Noun

carnivorous plant with sticky hairs that trap insects.

toxic
Adjective

poisonous.