Most of us are fascinated by carnivorous plants because they are, well, carnivorous. But I've often wondered what people thought of them before Darwin came along, since they are rather amazing in appearance alone.
For example, here and there in pre-nineteenth-century books, you'll find some mention of the sundew as ros solis (yup, dew of the sun) and references to an after-dinner drink also called ros solis, which allegedly helped digestion and is reported to have been a favorite of Louis XIV, known for his prodigious appetite. The plant captured the imagination because it appeared to remain covered in dew despite the heat of the day. From what I can tell, a lot of people simply marveled at this botanical wonder. Herbalists, though, surmised that it would combat dehydration and resolve pulmonary problems. Personally, it's the theologians I find most interesting. Sundews crop up all over the place as symbols of Mary (who "attracted the dew of the divine," according to one author) and the fleece of Gideon. I recently stumbled on this gem, which also has a little engraving of a sundew:
The gist is as follows: just as the sundew grows in low, swampy places, so too does the Christian humble himself, etc. The altar is the sun, the dew is grace, etc.
I thought fellow CP enthusiasts might get a kick out of this. Is anyone else interested in the roles these plants play in culture, especially before their carnivory was confirmed?