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Cluster of three venus flytraps. Two are open revealing red interior, the other is closed showing green exterior
Information icon Wild Venus flytrap growing with a variety of plants surrounding it. Photo by Dale Suiter, USFWS.

Coastal Program funds survey for Venus flytrap

Venus flytrap with three open lobes. A tall stalk grows from the stem
Venus flytrap plant showing an immature stalk and flower. Photo by Dale Suiter, USFWS.

Venus flytrap (Dionaea muscipula) is one of the most widely known carnivorous plants in the world. In his book Insectivorous Plants, Charles Darwin referred to Venus flytrap as “one of the most wonderful [plants] in the world. This unique species occurs naturally only in the Coastal Plain of southeastern North Carolina and northeastern South Carolina.

As of 2018, Venus flytrap plants occurred in 18 coastal counties and populations were considered extirpated, or historic, in three counties. The most recent range-wide study was conducted in 2002. Since then, many populations have been impacted or lost due to fire suppression, hydrological changes, poaching, or habitat conversion.

Yet some of the largest populations have come under protection and management as dedicated nature preserves. In 2019, there were approximately 124 populations in North Carolina and three in South Carolina.

In 2016, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service was petitioned to list the Venus flytrap. The Raleigh Field Office is currently evaluating the status of this at-risk species and will be conducting a Species Status Assessment (SSA) to determine if it warrants listing under the Endangered Species Act. To facilitate the SSA, the Raleigh Field Office’s Coastal Program established a cooperative agreement with the North Carolina Natural Heritage Program (NCNHP) to perform a range-wide status survey of the species.

Two men stand in field of tall grass and ferns looking down.
Dan Hannon and Ryan Martin conducting surveys for Venus flytraps. Photo by Johnny Randall, North Carolina Botanical Garden

In 2019, NCNHP biologists focused surveys at known populations on public lands such as the Croatan National Forest, Camp Lejeune Marine Corps Base, Holly Shelter Game Lands, Boiling Springs Lakes Plant Conservation Program Preserve and many others. Surveys of Venus flytraps on private lands were carried out in 2020. The surveys occurred during the spring and summer when Venus flytraps are most visible due to their flowering and fruiting structures.

The NCNHP contacted all landowners and land managers prior to conducting surveys for permission. Population counts were made by walking consecutive parallel transects approximately 5 meters wide, and counting all individuals seen within 2.5 meters of the surveyor. In dense sites with limited time (i.e. Camp Lejeune) an estimate for population size was extrapolated from a subsample of transects representing approximately 10% of the total population area.

Four people, 3 women and one man, stand for a photo. A few trees and tall grass surround them.
Venus Flytrap Survey Team: Libby Seay, Summer Lauder, John McLaughlin and Laura Hamon. Photo by Misty Buchanan, North Carolina Natural Heritage Program.

Maps of each population were created using GPS and GIS and they assimilated current monitoring data from other sources to update the element occurrence records for NCNHP and the South Carolina Heritage Trust Program. At population centers where data are sufficient, trends will be analyzed. The NCNHP will follow-up with all participating landowners and managers to share survey results and information about land protection and suggest land management options.

The Venus flytrap survey team counted or estimated more than 440,000 plants in 2019, primarily on public lands. In 2020, Venus flytrap surveys on public and private lands yielded more than 70,000 plants. Additional surveys yielded more than 250,000 plants on preserves owned by The Nature Conservancy. The final report will address the total number of populations known, the total number of plants found and threats to the species that were observed at each site.

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