Kurtis and I (Elizabeth) had the opportunity to visit Fraser Island off the coast of Australia a few weeks ago, what an amazing place! Fraser Island is the biggest sand island in the world. It’s covered with a wide variety of ecosystems including rainforest, fresh water lakes, swamps, and sandblows.
It’s also home to Drosera spatulata ‘Fraser Island’, a.k.a. the Fraser Island Spoon-Leaf Sundew. As carnivorous plant enthusiasts, we were on a mission to find some as soon as we arrived on the island. We determined the fresh water lakes were the most likely place finding these plants since the coastline with its salt and minerals can be harmful to most carnivorous species.
Let the hunt begin
An incredibly bumpy ride across one of the main inland “roads”, landed us at Lake McKenzie. While splashing around in the water (I’m easily distracted), Kurtis noticed some brush at the edge of the beach. The sun was too intense on the bare sand for sundews to survive any length of time but this patch of brush seemed to offer some shade along with organic matter which increases water retention.
As we began to poke around, sure enough there was a tiny Fraser Island Spoon-Leaf Sundew staring at us, and then another, and another. Hundreds of white flower sundews were hiding in this small patch right next to the beach! I was barely able to contain my excitement and to get better pictures, began twisting and contorting myself around all of the giant death spikes (the brush) that surrounded the sundews.
We took pictures for quite awhile and other people on the beach began wondering what we were doing crouched in the bushes for so long. A few wandered over and began shuffling around in the sand awkwardly close to us. One fellow’s curiosity got the best of him and he finally asked what we were looking at. We proceeded to point out the sundews and explain to him how they are carnivorous which means they catch and eat bugs by secreting dew containing digestive enzymes from their leaves. He looked at the plants and at us and then left quickly. Maybe the digestive enzyme secretions scared him. Maybe it was the crazed look of excitement in our eyes. I will never know.
Continuing the mission
After collecting ourselves, Kurtis and I headed back to the 4×4 to continue our trek across the island. Over the next couple of days between cruising up and down 75 Mile Beach and tracking dingos, we managed to visit other lakes as well.
Lake Allom was more shady than Lake McKenzie, so the sundews here were greener and produced more dew. Thousands of the white flower variety line it’s bog-like banks. We were excited to say the least, but the pink flower variety which also grows on the island was proving to be more elusive.
On our last day on Fraser Island, we hiked across the Hammerstone Sandblow to the edge of Lake Wabby. It was pretty, but I was sad because it was our last stop exploring Australia. As we turned and took the first few steps of what would be a long journey home, Kurtis saw a pop of color in the brush. There it was! Fraser Island’s Pink Flower Sundew; we got to see it after all! It was beautiful and a great finish to the adventure.
We hope to visit Fraser Island again someday as well as other areas of Australia where native carnivorous plant species grow; species such as Drosera ordensis and Drosera falconeri of the petiolaris complex (Wooly Sundews) and Cephalotus follicularis (Australian Pitcher Plants). When we do, rest assured we will share all about it because who doesn’t like seeing pictures of cool and curious plants??
Side note: If you are thinking about visiting Fraser Island yourself at some point, we highly recommend hiring a 4 Wheel-Drive vehicle from Atlas 4WD Hire. Because of all the sand, driving on the island is impossible without a sturdy vehicle. Atlas is a great family owned business with reliable SUVs.