Venus flytrap is North Carolina’s official carnivorous plant. Throughout the world, it is recognized as an iconic insect-eating plant and is a popular potted plant that has captured our imaginations.
The Venus flytrap is endemic to North and South Carolina, but it has been introduced to a few other states. Unfortunately, in the wild, populations continue to decline. The North Carolina Plant Conservation Program lists the Venus flytrap as a species of Special Concern-Vulnerable in North Carolina, and poaching of this plant became a felony in 2014. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service promotes Venus flytrap research and is evaluating a petition to list the plant as an endangered or threatened plant under the Endangered Species Act.
Populations are in decline primarily due to habitat loss and fire suppression. Regular fires minimize shrub and tree encroachment and maintain optimal habitat conditions for the Venus flytrap. Poaching is also a serious threat to the Venus plant and increased incidents of theft have been prosecuted in recent years.
A comparison of nursury grown and poached venus flytrap specimen. Photo © Johnny Randall, NC Botanical Garden, used with permission.
What is plant poaching?
Plant poaching involves the illegal removal of rare and endangered plants from their natural habitats. Poaching can occur on government land or on private property when plants are taken without regard to laws and regulations created for the plants’ protection.
The North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission has a program to reduce poaching by rewarding members of the public who report suspicious activity or provide knowledge related to wildlife poaching that results in a conviction. The NC WILDTIP Reward Program rewards range from $100 to $1,000, depending on the severity of the crime and the fines assessed by the court. All tips received through the program will remain anonymous. However, to be eligible for the reward, you must provide the North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission with your name and contact information. Tips can be submitted in four ways: at tipsubmit.com, via the app tip submit, via text to 274637, or via phone to 1-855-Wildtip. Visit ncwildlife.org/wildtip for more information.
You can help! When purchasing Venus flytraps and other carnivorous plants, buyers should look for reputable garden centers and nurseries that sell plants grown from tissue culture and never harvested from the wild. When purchasing plants 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 gravel and 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.
Venus in a “weedy” pot. Photo © Johnny Randall, NC Botanical Garden, used with permission.
Enjoy the Venus flytrap without damaging the sensitive habitat it needs. Visit places like the Stanley Rehder Carnivorous Plant Garden at Piney Ridge Nature Preserve in Wilmington, The North Carolina Botanical Garden in Chapel Hill or the UNC Charlotte Botanical Gardens to view and take pictures of these amazing plants. These organizations have cultivated collections for educational and research purposes and are open to the public.
The Venus flytrap grows in nutrient-poor soils, wet loamy pine savannas and sandhills seeps in the coastal plain of the Carolinas. The plant gets most of its energy from the sun, but it is uniquely adapted to the poor soil it grows in by supplementing its nutrition with small spiders, ants and other small insects.
Venus flytrap rarely traps its pollinators. Experts theorize that the flower grows high above the ground and away from the traps to avoid eating it’s pollinators.