BYBLIS - Cultivating Carnivorous Plants (2015)

Cultivating Carnivorous Plants (2015)


Byblis filifolia5

The Rainbow Plants from the genus Byblis look very similar to Drosera. In fact, these Australian and New

Guinean natives are not closely related to the Drosera, but they exhibit similar morphological characteristics.

All species of Byblis grow as single-stemmed plants with long, tapered leaves covered by tentacles that secrete

a sticky substance, much like Drosera. However, unlike Drosera, Byblis cannot move their tentacles or leaves to

aid trapping or digestion.



Byblis flowers have five petals and form at the end of leaves once plants reach maturity. In all Byblis

species except Byblis liniflora, the flowers require cross pollination to create seed. Seed matures in a roundish,

two-part capsule that, once dried, splits to release the seed. For most species, germination occurs in the weeks

after a brush fire swept through their dry habitats.

Contrary to past belief, Byblis are indeed carnivorous plants. Despite the presence of mutualistic bugs of

the genus Setocoris, which often eat prey captured by Byblis, the Byblis species (or at least Byblis filifolia and Byblis liniflora) produce digestive enzymes in response to captured prey. Like Drosera, they absorb nutrients from the

“soup” created by the digestive enzymes’ action.

Byblis filifolia flower.6



The species of Byblis are as follows:



Habitat / Notes

Fine, clayey soil in seasonally flooded areas and along the shores of freshwater

lagoons in Australia’s Northern Territory, and in black peaty-sand in seasonally

flooded areas with Nepenthes in Queensland. B. aquatica has scrambling stems up to



18 in (45 cm).

Sandy soils in open savanna, river and creek margins, watersheds, an over sandstone

throughout Northwest Australia. B. filifolia has stems up to 24 in (60 cm) and



possesses anthers longer than filaments.

Peaty-sand in swamp heath in the Perth area which is seasonally waterlogged. B.

gigantea has stems up to 28 in (70 cm) and seeds with a honeycomb pattern. Growth


Perennial pattern depends upon competition for light and space.

Open, sandy patches between native grasses in Acacia tumida shrub land near Beagle



Bay Mission. B. guehoi grows up to 7 in (18 cm) with many, branching stems.

Sand in open heathlands in Western Australia. B. lamellata grows up to 18 in (45 cm)

lamellata Perennial and has deeply ridged seeds.

Sandy soils and clayey sand in Queensland. B. liniflora grows up to 6 in (15 cm) and



has anthers shorter than filaments.

Sandy loam derived from red granite on plains of Triodia lanigera hummock grass in

the Pilbara area of West Australia. B. pilbarana grows up to 6 in (15 cm) with a short,

erect, thick stem with erect and semi-erect foliage and a distinctive funicle on its

pilbarana Annual


Sand along creeks and seasonally flooded areas and laterite on the Mitchell Plateau,

and rocky soil in the King Leopold Range in the Kimberly area of West Australia. B.



rorida grows up to 12 in (30 cm) and is heavily set with glandular tentacles.

By far, the most common species of Byblis in cultivation is Byblis liniflora.

It is an exceedingly easy species with self-pollinating flowers. All other

species of Byblis require cross-pollination with at least two individual plants

for successful seed set, although some growers have reported occasional seed

set with only one plant. Most species require the “buzzing” effect of a bee,

which can be replicated with a tuning fork, in order to release pollen.

Although Byblis aquatica and Byblis rorida are frequently said to be able to

tolerate wetter temperatures, frequently, growers have better success with the

genus when watering with the tray method while keeping the amount of

water in the tray low, allowing it to dry out between each watering.

All species of Byblis are best propagated by seed. Germination for all

species, except Byblis liniflora, requires smoke treatment, which can be

achieved through gibberellic acid treatment or by burning a small amount of

leaf litter atop the pot in which seeds are sown. If burning litter, it may be

necessary to cover the fire with a glass jar in order to capture the smoke and

Byblis aquatica seed pod

allow it to swirl around the seed, thus depositing the chemicals in the smoke

near maturity. It will soon

dry, split, and spill seeds

near the seed to induce germination. If done correctly, germination should

into the water.7

occur within a couple weeks.



Byblis aquatica8



My standard growing guide for Byblis follows:

Media: Most growers recommend a one part sphagnum peat to one part sand mixture for Byblis. In

the wild, most grow in nearly pure sand, so my recommendation is two parts sand for one part

sphagnum peat.

Moisture: As with most carnivores, Byblis like moist, but not soaking media. I recommend using the

tray method with a lower amount of water than for Drosera.

Humidity: Humidity is not a big factor for Byblis, although they do prefer ambient humidity in line

with most subtropical Drosera.

Pot Size: Byblis detest root disturbance. As a consequence, seeds should be potted in pots large

enough to accommodate the adult plants. The exact size of pots will depend on the species. Byblis

species such as Byblis gigantea, require much larger pots than diminutive species, such as Byblis liniflora.

A six inch (15 cm) pot is usually sufficient for Byblis gigantea, whereas a two-and-a-half inch (6 cm) pot

is sufficient for Byblis liniflora.

Feeding: Byblis may be fertilized with a diluted foliar orchid fertilizer or fed with small prey, such as

bloodworms or fruit flies. These can often be purchased in the reptile section of many pet stores or

online. If using prey such as bloodworms, be take care to crumble them into (nearly) powder and

watch for leaf burn, which can occur if the prey is too large or nutrient rich. Byblis can easily have

their leaves overwhelmed by too large of prey.

Temperature: Byblis seem to prefer temperatures in the 60° - 80° F (16° - 27° C) range, but can

tolerate temperatures both lower and higher than that range. Do not expose Byblis to freezing


Dormancy: Dormancy is not strictly required for Byblis. Annual species will die after going to seed,

several months after germination. Perennial species should be given slightly less water for a period of

time each year, but this does not appear to be strictly necessary. Failure to give perennial species a

drier “dormancy” each year probably cuts down on the lifespan of the plant, but it is not clear by

how much.

Propagation: Byblis are best propagated via seed, as discussed above. Some success has been had with

propagating perennial species via leaf cuttings, as with Drosera, but this is more difficult. If attempting

leaf cuttings, be sure to take off the leaf as close to the leaf base as possible. Then, place on an

appropriate media, cover with a pinch of media, and cover with plastic wrap to increase humidity.