Stratgies for low fertility soils

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As a member of the pea family, the Nootka lupin has root nodules for nitrogen fixation. We’ve also seen other peas, clovers and vetch plants capable of fixing nitrogen as we’ve travelled around Iceland.


Nodules on a lupin root
Nodules on a lupin root

Carnivorous plants, however, have a unique way of gaining nutrients which are not available in the soil. The butterwort (Pinguicula vulgaris) is quite common in a lot of the damp environments that we’ve visited. The succulent leaves are covered with tiny glands which secrete fluids containing digestive enzymes. Small insects are trapped on the sticky surface of the leaf, and are digested by the enzymes. The fluid is then absorbed back into the leaf along with essential nutrients such as nitrogen and phosphorus which have been released from the insect corpse.

Butterwort rosette with small insects on leaves
Butterwort rosette with small insects on leaves

Common butterwort has a pretty purple flower held on a long stalk to keep pollinating insects away from the danger of the leaves. At this time of year plants have mature seed capsules.

Seed capsule
Seed capsule

However, as well as producing seed, the Common butterwort can also reproduce vegetatively, producing offshoots and new plantlets.

Spreading colony of butterworts
Spreading colony of butterworts

One thought on “Stratgies for low fertility soils

    Spoke too soon…. « Herbology Manchester said:
    August 13, 2014 at 11:41 pm

    […] ….when I said that the Common butterwort had finished flowering in Iceland in August and had set seed. […]

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