Brunswick County - Home to the Rare Venus Flytrap

by Dana M. Thayer

Location of Venus Flytraps in the United States
Location of Venus Flytraps
in the United States

Brunswick County, North Carolina is no stranger to rare plants. In fact, the greatest number of rare plant species in the state can be found in Brunswick County. One particular plant of interest is the Venus Flytrap (Dionaea muscipula). Though Venus Flytraps are known worldwide, the carnivorous plant is a native grower only in the Carolinas.

The Venus Flytrap is one of the most fascinating plants known to man. This carnivorous plant has the unusual ability to trap animal prey. When hair-like trichomes are brushed against by prey, the Flytrap is triggered to snap shut. The hairs are so specialized that it "knows" the difference between prey and raindrops. Once closed, the lobes secrete digestion enzymes which break down the prey into nutrients which are absorbed. After about ten days, the trap reopens. This keen trait allows the Venus Flytrap to thrive in areas where the soil lacks key nutrients.

Venus Flytraps
Venus Flytraps

Of course, not everyone understands how the Venus Flytrap catches its prey. And over time our imaginations have invented fictional plant characters which terrorize and devour like the monstrous Audrey II in the musical Little Shop of Horrors. The classic video game Super Mario Bros. includes creatures similar to Venus Flytraps which emerge from pipes to damage the player. There are many others.

But these villains are very poor representations of the actual plant, because the Flytrap doesn't pose a danger to people at all in fact, we've been a danger to it! With all this interest, the Venus Flytrap has become a novelty houseplant, and that has led to some poachers seizing them from the wild for commercial sale.

Venus Flytraps in St. James Plantation
Venus Flytraps in St. James Plantation
Brunswick County, North Carolina

Fortunately, the US Fish and Wildlife Service has included the Venus Flytrap as a "federal species of concern" for Brunswick County. The Venus Flytrap is legally protected under the North Carolina Plant Protection and Conservation Act. Fines of $50 per Flytrap can be issued if poachers are caught in the act.

To further protect Flytraps, The Nature Conservancy has combined forces with the State Department of Agriculture to launch a sting operation. By painting these plants with a special orange dye that is absorbed by the plant and which will glow under ultra-violet light, inspectors hope to track the stolen plants when they show up in nurseries.

Nature Trail in Boiling Spring Lakes
Nature Trail in Boiling Spring Lakes
Brunswick County, North Carolina

People in the Brunswick County area are lucky, though. No such covert methods are necessary to enjoy the mysterious beauty of the Venus Flytrap. In 2004, the Boiling Spring Lakes Nature Trail was completed, allowing visitors to walk through a portion of the preserve and see the delicate plants first hand, while still protecting the Flytraps natural habitat. With over six thousand acres in size, The Boiling Spring Lakes Preserve is located in Brunswick County, NC in the city of Boiling Spring Lakes just off Highway 87. The trail begins at the Community Center. The Nature Trail is a joint effort of The Nature Conservancy, the City of Boiling Spring Lakes, and the North Carolina Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services Plant Conservation Program. The trail furthers the Nature Conservancy's mission to preserve the plants, animals and natural communities that represent the diversity of life on Earth by protecting the lands and waters they need to survive. More information can be found by visiting the Nature Conservancy online at www.nature.org or calling the Nature Conservancy's Wilmington Office at (910) 762-6277.

Copyright 2007. All Rights Reserved.

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