Ethnobotanical Leaflets 12: 1073-77. 2008.



A Note on the Identity of Carnivorous Plants of Karungalakudi, Tamil Nadu, India


1K. Natarajan, 2R. Kottaimuthu, 3V. Balasubramanian, 1P. Alex Pandian, 1M. Malaisamy and  R. Ponnuchamy4


1PG and Research Department, The American College, Madurai-625002.

2Ashoka Trust for Research in Ecology and the Environment (ATREE), Bangalore.

3Department of Microbiology, Bharathidasan University, Tiruchirapalli.

4French Institute, Pondicherry.



Issued 01 December 2008


            Karungalakudi is blessed with rich herbaceous flora including two carnivorous plant groups, viz. fly traps and bladder worts. In the present communication, a total of 6 insectivorous plants are reported, and it is confirmed that the reported occurrence of  Drosera brevifolia Pursh, Utricularia minor L., U. resupinata Greene ex Bigelow and U. uniflora R. Br. in Karungalakudi is due to a misidentification.

Key words:  Karungalakudi, Fly-traps, Bladder worts, Misidentification.


            Karungalakudi is situated 40km away from Madurai district and it lies at 100 9’ 34” to 100 9’ 45”N latitude and 780 21’ 31” to 780 22’ 3”E longitude. Detailed botanical studies were conducted in various places of Karungalakudi between January 2006 – October 2008. All the collected specimens were poisoned, processed and labeled by standard herbarium methods (Jain and Rao, 1993). The correct identity of the herbarium specimens were then confirmed by further critical study with the help of relevant floras, monographs and revisions (Gamble and Fischer, 1997; Janarthanam and Henry, 1992; Matthew, 1983; Taylor, 1989). Their identification was later confirmed by matching specimens with previously authenticated specimens available at Botanical Survey of India (BSI), Southern Circle, Coimbatore. All collections are deposited in Ashoka Trust for Research in Ecology and the Environment (ATREE) Herbarium, Bangalore. An artificial key is given for easy identification and further collection of carnivorous plants from Karungalakudi and the enumeration follows alphabetical order of the family, binomials followed by voucher specimen number and distribution.

Key to the Carnivorous plants of Karungalakudi.

1a. Leaves with hair like tentacles; Flowers actinomorphic----------------------------------2

1b. Leaves absent / Foliar organs not as above; Flowers zygomorphic----------------------3

2a. Plants scapigerous; Stipules present------------------------------------Drosera burmanii

2b. Plants non-scapigerous; Stipules absent-----------------------------------Drosera indica

3a. Flowers yellow----------------------------------------------------------Utricularia bifida

3b. Flowers other than yellow--------------------------------------------------------------4

4a. Racemes hairy----------------------------------------------------- ------Utricularia hirta

4b. Racemes glabrous----------------------------------------------------------------------5

5a. Mouth of trap basal----------------------------------------------Utricularia polygaloides

5b. Mouth of trap lateral----------------------------------------- -----Utricularia minutissima

Systematic Enumeration

Droseraceae (Fly-trap Family)

NOTE: Drosera L., commonly known as sundew, has about 135 species (Schlauer, 1996), among which only three are found in India (Ghosh, 1997). D. brevifolia Pursh. so far has been reported only from the United States (Britton and Brown, 1913; Llyod, 1942) and the reported occurrence of Drosera brevifolia in Karungalakudi (Ramya et al ., 2008) is incorrect as it is a case of mistaken identity of D. indica.

Drosera burmanii Vahl.

Specimens Examined: Kottai1019, 1052.

Distribution: India, West Africa, Myanmar, China, Taiwan, Malesia and Australia.

Drosera indica L.

Specimens Examined: Kottai 1222, 1359.

Distribution: India (Deccan Peninsula, Bihar and West Bengal), Srilanka, Myanmar, Tropical Africa, Madagascar, Japan, Australia, China and Malesia.

Lentibulariaceae (Bladder wort Family)

NOTE: Utricularia L., commonly known as bladder wort, has about 214 species (Taylor, 1989) distributed mostly in tropics and subtropics and a few are temperate (Cook, 1996) where in 35 species are present in India (Janarthanam and Henry, 1992). Over the last 8 years, 3 additional species have been described from India, including U. janarthanamii, U. naikii and U. babui (Yadav et al., 2000 and 2005). Recently Ramya et al (2008) reported U. resupinata Greene ex Bigelow and U. uniflora R. Br. from Karungalakudi but there is no authentic report either from Tamil Nadu ( Chandrasekaran, 1987; Matthew, 1983; Ravikumar, 1993) or from India ( Janarthanam and Henry, 1992; Taylor, 1989) and the record of its occurrence in Karungalakudi is due to a misidentification. The areas of distribution for U. resupinata is Eastern Canada, United States and Central America (Baker, 1926; Britton and Brown, 1913; Eyles and Robertson, 1963; House, 1924; Keller and Brown, 1905; Lloyd, 1942; Tatnall, 1946; Taylor, 1989 and 1991) and for U. uniflora is Southern Australia, SE Victoria, New South Wales, Southern Queensland and Tasmania (Gibson, 1999; Taylor, 1989). Similarly in India, U. minor L. has been recorded so far only from the Himachal Pradesh, Jammu and Kashmir at 2500-4300m altitude (Janarthanam and Henry, 1992; Taylor, 1989) hence the record of its occurrence in Karungalakudi (Ramya et al., 2008) is erroneous.

Utricularia bifida L.

Specimens Examined: Kottai1035, 1050.

Distribution: India, Srilanka, Japan and South to North Australia.

Utricularia hirta Klein ex Link.

Specimens Examined: Kottai1200, 1356.

Distribution: India (Bihar, Madhya Pradesh, Meghalaya, Orissa, Tamil Nadu, Uttar Pradesh and West Bengal) and Malesia

Utricularia minutissima Vahl.

Specimens Examined: Kottai1210, 1357.

Distribution: India ( Karnataka, Kerala, Orissa, Tamil Nadu, Uttar Pradesh and West Bengal), Japan and Australia.

Utricularia polygaloides Edgew.

Specimens Examined: Kottai1227, 1349.

Distribution: India (Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka, Kerala, Madhya Pradesh, Orissa, Tamil Nadu and West Bengal) and Srilanka.

Results and Discussions

            Carnivorous plant flora of Karungalakudi consists of  two species of Droseraceae and four species of Lentibulariaceae. Due to prolonged anthropogenic pressures, the carnivorous plants of Karungalakudi are locally endangered. In the future, if pressures persist, the carnivorous plants - priceless gift of nature - will be extinct locally from Karungalakudi.


            The second author is grateful to Dr. G. V. S. Murthy, Joint Director, Botanical Survey of India, Southern Circle, Coimbatore for permission to consult the Madras Herbarium (MH).


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