Most folks know that the Venus flytrap is a carnivorous plant that “eats” it’s prey – mostly spiders and insects. but did you know that this is the only place in the world where they grow? The subtropical wetlands in southeastern North Carolina and northern South Carolina are it’s the only place you will find them!
Venus flytraps catch their prey—chiefly insects and arachnids—with a trapping structure formed by the outer portion of each of the plant’s leaves, which is triggered by tiny hairs on their inner surfaces.
When an insect or spider crawling along the leaves contacts a hair, the trap prepares to close, snapping shut only if another contact occurs within approximately twenty seconds of the first strike.
The requirement of redundant triggering in this mechanism serves as a safeguard against wasting energy by trapping objects with no nutritional value, and the plant will only begin digestion after five more stimuli to ensure it has caught a live bug worthy of consumption.
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, their diet is 33% ants, 30% spiders, 10% beetles, and 10% grasshoppers, with fewer than 5% flying insects.
The Venus flytrap is found in nitrogen- and phosphorus-poor environments, such as bogs and wet savannahs. Small and slow-growing, the Venus flytrap tolerates fire well, and depends on periodic burning to suppress its competition.
Fire suppression threatens its future in the wild. It survives in wet sandy and peaty soils.
Although it has been successfully transplanted and grown in many locales around the world, it is native only to the coastal bogs of North and South Carolina in the United States, specifically within a 60-mile radius of Wilmington, North Carolina.
One such place is Brunswick County NC’s Green Swamp. The nutritional poverty of the soil is the reason that the plant relies on such elaborate traps: insect prey provide the nitrogen for protein formation that the soil cannot.
The Venus flytrap is not a tropical plant and can tolerate mild winters. In fact, Venus flytraps that do not go through a period of winter dormancy will weaken and die after a period of time.
The species is classified as “vulnerable” by the National Wildlife Federation. In 2015, there were estimated to be fewer than 33,000 plants in the wild, all within 75 miles of the city of Wilmington, North Carolina, and all on sites owned by The Nature Conservancy, the North Carolina state government, or the US military.
In 2014, the state of North Carolina passed Senate Bill 734 which classifies the theft of naturally growing Venus flytraps in the state as a felony. Tougher sanctions and penalties for the theft were also enacted in December 1, 2014 in accordance with legislation.
Plants can be propagated by seed, taking around four to five years to reach maturity. More commonly, they are propagated by clonal division in spring or summer.
Venus flytraps can also be propagated in vitro using plant tissue culture.
Most Venus flytraps found for sale in nurseries garden centers have been produced using this method, as this is the most cost-effective way to propagate them on a large scale.
Regardless of the propagation method used, the plants will live for 20 to 30 years if cultivated in the right conditions.