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Venus flytrap

Dionaea muscipula

The Venus flytrap, a small perennial herb, is one of the most widely recognized carnivorous plant species on Earth. It occupies distinct longleaf pine habitats in the Coastal Plain and Sandhills of North and South Carolina.

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Appearance

A venus flytrap with bright red mouth with small hairs.
Venus flytrap. Photo by Jennifer Koches, USFWS.

The Venus flytrap (Dionaea muscipula), a small perennial herb, is one of the most widely recognized plant species on Earth. It forms a basal rosette of distinct leaves that are attached to a short rhizome. The leaf blade consists of two kidney-shaped, hinged, sensitive lobes up to 25 mm long with stiff marginal hairs to eight millimeters long. When trigger hairs are stimulated, the two lobes snap closed, trapping insects between them. The petioles are winged and two to seven centimeters long. Flowers are borne in an umbelliform cyme (short flower stalks which spread from a common point, somewhat like umbrella ribs) at the top of a 10 to 30 centimeters tall scape, with five white petals that are 11 to 13 millimeters long. The monecious flowers (male and female plant parts in separate flowers on the same plant) contain one stigma and 10 to 20 stamens. The capsule is three to four millimeters long. Venus flytrap flowers from May to June, and the fruits mature in June and July.

Habitat

Venus flytrap occupies distinct longleaf pine habitats in two regions of the Carolinas - the Coastal Plain and Sandhills. In the Coastal Plain where it is more common, Venus flytrap occurs in wet loamy pine savannas and sand pine savannas. These sites are generally flat with wet or moist soils for much of the year. The species rarely occurs in seasonally flooded depressions, although it may occur along the edges of such sites. In the Sandhills region, it is limited to narrow, moist transitional areas between streamhead pocosins (linear, evergreen shrub bogs along small creeks and their headwaters) and longleaf pine/scrub oak/wiregrass uplands and along the vegetatively similar ecotones between Sandhill seeps and longleaf pine uplands. Sandhill seeps are sphagnous, shrub-and-herb-dominated areas occurring in relatively steep places where local clay soils force seepage water to the surface. Soils in these ecotonal areas are usually highly acidic, loamy sands.

A pine tree stand with low growing vegetation.
Venus flytrap habitat. Photo by Jennifer Koches, USFWS.

Diet

Most carnivorous plants selectively feed on specific prey. This selection is due to the available prey and the type of trap used by the organism. With the Venus flytrap, prey is limited to beetles, spiders and other crawling arthropods. In fact, the Dionaea diet is 33 percent ants, 30 percent spiders, 10 percent beetles, and 10 percent grasshoppers, with fewer than five percent flying insects.1 It turns out that Venus flytraps don’t eat the insects that pollinate them, according to N.C. State University2.

A bright orange and black beetle on a white flower with five petals.
Checkered beetle on venus flytrap blooms. Photo by Jennifer Koches, USFWS.

Historical range

North Carolina counties

  • Lenoir
  • Moore
  • Robeson

South Carolina counties

  • Charleston
  • Georgetown

Current range

Currently, the Venus flytrap is found in 15 counties in North Carolina (Beaufort, Bladen, Brunswick, Carteret, Columbus, Craven, Cumberland, Duplin, Hoke, Jones, New Hanover, Onslow, Pamlico, Pender and Sampson counties) and only one county in South Carolina (Horry County).

Conservation challenges

Population numbers and sizes continue to decline primarily due to drastic changes in Venus flytrap’s habitat as a result of fire suppression, conversion to agriculture, silviculture, and residential and commercial development which may involve logging, bedding, ditching, and draining. Fire suppression leads to shrub and tree encroachment and a gradual decline in the quality of Venus flytrap habitat. Clear cutting and bedding can physically destroy plants, while ditching and draining can make the soil too dry for moisture-dependent Venus flytraps. Many lesser quality, roadside occurrences of Venus flytraps are threatened by vehicular activities, road maintenance, and road expansions. Another major threat to Venus flytraps is over-collection. Poaching is also a serious threat to Venus flytrap and incidents of theft appear to have increased in recent years. Poaching Venus flytrap plants is now a felony in five North Carolina counties.

A cluster of flytraps surrounded by small white flowers.
Venus flytrap cluster with blooms. Photo by Jennifer Koches, USFWS.

Recovery plan

A recovery plan will be developed if the species is listed under the Endangered Species Act.

Partnerships, research and projects

How you can help

  1. Protect distinct habitats where the Venus flytrap is known to occur and monitor all known populations.
  2. Reverse declines in the species due to fire suppression (the elimination/reduction of fire in fire-maintained habitats) by encouraging more prescribed burning in Venus flytrap habitat.
  3. Continue to survey and monitor for the species, particularly on public lands where poaching continues to be a threat to the persistence of the species.

Subject matter experts

  • Dale Suiter, Raleigh Ecological Services Field Office, dale_suiter@fws.gov, 919-856-4520 x 18

Designated critical habitat

Critical habitat may be designated if the species is listed under the ESA.

Historic news

Other notices


Federal Register notices

The following Federal Register documents were automatically gathered by searching the Federal Register Official API with this species’ scientific name ordered by relevance. You can conduct your own search on the Federal Register website.


  1. Ellison, DM; Gotelli, NJ (2009). “Energetics and the evolution of carnivorous plants—Darwin’s ‘Most Wonderful plants in the world’” (PDF). Experiment Botany. 60 (1): 19–42. doi:10.1093/jxb/ern179. PMID 19213724.] [return]
  2. Elsa Youngsteadt, Rebecca E. Irwin, Alison Fowler, Matthew A. Bertone, Sara June Giacomini, Michael Kunz, Dale Suiter, and Clyde E. Sorenson, “Venus Flytrap Rarely Traps Its Pollinators,” The American Naturalist. [return]
  • We're sorry but an error occurred. Visit the Federal Register to conduct your own search.

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