Drosophyllum's ability to capture insects was well known for hundreds of years before any thought was given to its possible carnivorous nature. Darwin investigated Drosophyllum for carnivory, but it was A. Quintanilha of Portugal who did the critical study of Drosophyllum, verifying that it secreted a digestive enzyme that effected digestion without bacterial assistance. The first part of the name Drosophyllum is derived from the Greek drosos, meaning dew, and phyllum is from the Greek phylon for race or tribe.

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