How The Nature Conservancy Has Made an
Impact in Brunswick County, NC

by Dave Batts

“Protecting Nature. Preserving Life.” The slogan for The Nature Conservancy speaks for itself. Their mission statement is poetic too - “To preserve the plants, animals, and natural communities that represent the diversity of life on Earth by protecting the lands and waters that they need to survive.”

Though they rarely make their way to the spotlight, when you look at their website (, their existence is evident, having earned themselves the title of one of “the most trusted organizations” in 2005 and 2006.

They work in a collaborative effort with people all over the world, helping them preserve and care for over 117 million acres of land and 5,000 miles of waterways. Much of this burden is supported by the 1 million members it has, with 10,000 of those members being volunteers who devote their free time to making a difference.

Venus Fly Traps in Boiling Spring Lakes, NC
Venus Fly Traps in
Boiling Spring Lakes, North Carolina

In one of their more recent local projects in Brunswick County, they teamed up with the North Carolina Department of Agriculture to set up a botanical sting operation in an effort to stave off the poaching of wild Venus Fly-Traps which grow naturally in the southeastern bogs of North Carolina.

The Venus Fly-Trap poaching epidemic hit an all time scare when in June of 2005, over 1,000 plants where stolen from the Green Swamp Preserve in Brunswick County in a single day! Though a farm raised plant can be bought at nearly any nursery, it is illegal to harvest a Venus Fly-Trap from its natural setting, an offense punishable by a fine of $50 per plant.

Since an offender has to be caught “green handed” in order to be charged, the Nature Conservancy and the North Carolina Department of Agriculture adopted a method used during a similar sting operation during the 1990’s, in which wild ginseng was being harvested from the Smoky Mountains. Painting the plants with a harmless phosphorescent paint, authorities can now use an ultraviolet light to scan the suspected plant, thus identifying it as stolen.

Nature Trail in Boiling Spring Lakes, NC
Nature Trail in
Boiling Spring Lakes, North Carolina

Though the sight of a Venus Fly-Trap growing in the wild would surely catch any unsuspecting walker off guard, it is only one of the many rare plants that seem to dot the landscape of Brunswick County’s wilderness. There is a Nature Trail in Boiling Spring Lakes where you can view Venus Fly traps in their natural environment. The Nature Trail is a joint effort of The Nature Conservancy, the City of Boiling Spring Lakes, the North Carolina Department of Agriculture and the Consumer Services Plant Conservation Program. It begins at the Boiling Spring Lakes Community Center.

Other rare plants located in Brunswick County include sundew and four different types of pitcher plants, as well as the less carnivorous orchids that don’t require nitrogen from bugs to survive, but are sure to take the breath away from passersby’s just the same.

Several environmental factors attribute to the rare flora that is found throughout the area, ranging from its location to the Gulf Stream to the naturally occurring fires which is a life giver to the long-needle pines that need the fires to pollinate.

The City of Boiling Spring Lakes Welcome Sign
Boiling Spring Lakes
Welcome Sign

The Nature Conservancy has been obtaining land from Brunswick County since 1977, when The Federal Paper Board first donated over 13,850 acres of The Green Swamp Preserves to the organization. In 1999, The Nature Conservancy acquired over 6,500 acres from The Boiling Spring Lakes area, which is now The Boiling Spring Lakes Preserve. Though the BSL Preserve is owned by The North Carolina Department of Agriculture, the Nature Conservancy helps to manage both of the preserves through planned burnings (which is necessary for the ecological growth of the preserve’s natural setting), planting fresh pines to one day pollinate the landscape, and hanging boxes for the federally endangered red-cockaded woodpeckers. Both preserves are open to the public through the use of nature trails only, as the treaded footfalls of curious onlookers can have a detrimental impact on the preserves’ delicate ecosystem.

Copyright © 2007. All Rights Reserved.

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