The Venus flytrap. This little plant has evolved ability to consume animal flesh for extra nutrients, flipping nature’s already bizarre script. They’ve ignited our imaginations and seized several spots in pop culture from movies to video games. You can even buy them from Walmart.
Despite their fame, Venus flytraps are only native to a 60 mile radius around Wilmington, North Carolina. In this episode of Tidewater Teddy, we’ll go looking for Venus flytraps in their native range at a place called Green Swamp. Now, let’s slip on our boots and go for a walk in the woods!
Green Swamp is dominated by longleaf pine forests, which are quite a rare sight these days. Once common in the southeast United States, longleaf pine forests have decreased by 97% since European settlers arrived. Now, Green Swamp is one of the few pockets where you’ll find this unique ecosystem.
Fire, normally an enemy of everything green and wooden, has shaped Green Swamp into the habitat it is today. Longleaf pines are special among trees because they depend on fire to prosper. They need bare ground and plenty of sunlight to germinate, and frequent fires grant them those opportunities.
Native Americans once lit fires to encourage the growth of grazing plants for game animals and to allow easier movement through the landscape. But, once European colonists arrived, these fires decreased, and the open longleaf pine forests gave way to the dense forests that dominate the eastern US today.
Other plants in Green Swamp also depend on fire to survive. Many species, including the 14 species of carnivorous plants and 18 species of orchids, possess roots that can endure the hottest fires. They also thrive in the excess sunlight that these fire-shaped forests have created. Without regular fires, they would suffocate in the shadows of dense trees.
Yellow pitcher plants are native to the southeast United States. Unlike Venus flytraps, which use rapid movement to capture prey, pitcher plants are more passive. They use nectar to lure insects into the slippery waxy portion of their upper pitcher tube, further guiding them in with fine, downward-pointing hairs until they are trapped in the plant’s digestive enzymes.
Now, let’s get to the Venus flytraps. If you go to Green Swamp or any of the other areas around Wilmington that contain wild Venus flytraps and other carnivorous plants, please DO NOT touch them or take them. Venus flytraps are an endangered species and are protected by law.
In 1979, there were approximately 4.5 million Venus flytraps present in their native range. In 2019, there were barely more than 300,000. That’s a 93% decrease in 40 years. This is likely due to habitat destruction and fragmentation as well as poachers who are eager to get their hands on these infamous insect eating plants.
Unlike pitcher plants, Venus flytraps are more active in their hunting. As you probably already know, they use rapid movement to capture unsuspecting prey.
In Green Swamp, they are often found among sphagnum moss. Last time I went there, I had no idea what sphagnum moss was, but some helpful YouTubers informed me in the comments.
Like any species, Venus flytraps deserve care and respect. You get the idea. Blah, blah, blah. Anyways, thanks for reading, and have a great day!