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Only a few hundred carnivorous plants are on Earth and only six of those are native to the United States. One is the Venus Flytrap. It grows along the North Carolina coastline, within a seventy-five mile radius of Wilmington.
The Venus Flytrap is a carnivorous plant that catches and digests mainly arachnids and small insects. Its red-colored leaves attract insects, and the minuscule hairs trigger when an insect crawls across them. The leaves then close up rapidly like a trap and it takes the plant seven to ten days to digest fully the animal.
The Venus Flytrap, also known as Dionaea muscipula
, thrives in humid, muggy habitats. Although the plant must rely on its ability to trap and eat insects to proliferate, the Carolina Bay is an ideal environment for the plant, because the plant can survive in the swamp’s nutrient poor soil. The plant is not tropical and can tolerate mild winters. The plant ranges from three to six inches in stature and grows slowly.
The unique Venus Flytrap has astounded many people. It first received attention in 1750, when the royal governor of North Carolina, Arthur Dobbs, remarked how unusual it was. Even Charles Darwin, in 1892, depicted the Venus Flytrap as, “one of the most wonderful plants in the world,” in his book, Insectivorous Plants.
In 1934, the plant was made the official North Carolina Garden Club flower, and in 2005, the General Assembly of North Carolina made the Venus Flytrap the official state carnivorous plant.
The Venus Flytrap became officially protected by legislation in 1956, due its limited numbers in the wild. Currently there are only an estimated 35,000 plants left in their natural habitat, and the plant is still considered vulnerable and listed as a species of special concern by the Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources.
Botanical Society of America, "The Mysterious Venus Flytrap," http://www.botany.org/ (last accessed September 2, 2010); Charles Darwin, Insectivorous Plants, (New York City 1892), Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources, "The IUCN Red List of Vulnerable Species 2010," http://www.iucnredlist.org/ (last accessed September 2, 2010); The International Carnivorous Plant Society, "Venus Flytraps: A Tutorial!" http://www.carnivorousplants.org/ (last accessed September 2, 2010); William S. Powell, ed., Encyclopedia of North Carolina, (Chapel Hill 2006); Scientific American, "Secret of the Venus Flytrap Revealed," http://www.scientificamerican.com/ (last accessed September 2, 2010).
By Kellie Slappey, North Carolina History Project
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Region: Coastal Plain