The Venus flytrap, a small perennial herbaceous plant, 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 Carolina and South Carolina. In the late 1800s, Charles Darwin conducted research on the plant, calling it “one of the most wonderful plants in the world.” The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is evaluating whether the species meets the definition of threatened or endangered, which would provide federal protection under the Endangered Species Act.
Populations are in decline primarily due to habitat loss and fire suppression. Habitat loss, land conversion to agriculture, silviculture, and residential and commercial development may involve logging, bedding, ditching, and draining. Clear cutting and bedding can physically destroy plants, while ditching and draining can change hydrology and make the soil too dry for moisture-dependent Venus flytraps. Fire suppression is also an important threat, leading to shrub and tree encroachment and a gradual decline in the quality of Venus flytrap habitat. Many lesser quality, roadside occurrences of Venus flytraps are threatened by road maintenance, and road expansions. Poaching is another threat to Venus flytraps.
Over the years, Venus flytrap plants have been taken from the wild for the horticulture trade and use in pharmaceuticals. Poaching Venus flytrap plants became a felony in North Carolina in 2014.
Status assessment underway
In October 2016, the USFWS was petitioned to list Venus flytrap as an endangered species under the Endangered Species Act. Updated information on Venus flytrap’s status was published in the Federal Register in December 2017, along with a “warranted” 90-day finding and notice initiating a Species Status Assessment. A “warranted” finding indicates the petition contained substantial information indicating listing may be warranted for the species.
How you can help
Protect distinct habitats where the Venus flytrap is known to occur and monitor all known populations.
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.
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.
Only purchase Venus flytrap plants that have been grown from tissue culture and not collected from the wild.
Look for reputable garden centers and nurseries and follow these simple steps:
Examine the entire tray. Look for uniformity of size among the plants as an indication that plants are tissue cultured or nursery propagated. Plants which vary in size may have been poached.
Look at the soil and determine if it looks like soil from nature or from a nursery. Uniform, sterile peat moss is a good indication of plants grown in a nursery. Soil mixed with sand may have come from the wild.
Finally, look for other species growing in the same pot. If a pot looks “weedy,” that is an indication that the plants were wild harvested.
Location in Taxonomic Tree
Like most plants, the Venus flytrap’s main source of energy is provided through photosynthesis but the digestion of insects gives the plant nutrients that are not readily available in the surrounding environment.
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 mostly limited to 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. Once prey is trapped, it may take the plant from three to 20 days to ingest all nutrients before reopening the leaves. According to research conducted at N.C. State University, Venus flytraps don’t trap the insects that pollinate them.
Venus flytrap occupies distinct longleaf pine habitats in the two physiographic regions of the Carolinas - the Coastal Plain and the Sandhills. In the Coastal Plain where it is more common, Venus flytrap occurs in wet loamy pine savannas and sandy pine savannas. These sites are generally flat with wet or moist soils for much of the year. It also occurs in ecotones between wet savannas and drier areas such as the sandy rims of Carolina Bays. In the Sandhills region, it is limited to narrow, moist areas between streamhead pocosins (linear, evergreen shrub bogs along small creeks and their headwaters) and longleaf pine/scrub oak/wiregrass uplands and similar areas between Sandhill seeps and longleaf pine uplands.
Land on which the natural dominant plant forms are grasses and forbs.
A dense growth of trees and underbrush covering a large tract.
Areas such as marshes or swamps that are covered often intermittently with shallow water or have soil saturated with moisture.
Venus flytraps produce white flowers from May through June with fruits maturing June through July.
Venus flytraps reproduce sexually through flowering. Vegetative or asexual reproduction occurs from buds that grow from short rhizomes.
While Venus flytraps have survived in cultivation for at least 25 years, their lifespan in the wild is unknown, but probably much shorter.
North Carolina has more than 30 species of carnivorous plants, including multiple types of Butterworts, Pitcher Plants and Bladderworts. They occur across the state from wet longleaf pine savannas of the coastal plain to mountain bogs. Each genus of carnivorous plant uses a different method for trapping insects.
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