‘Flytrap Frolic’ to celebrate, try to save, North Carolina’s carnivorous curiosities

Development is threatening a North Carolina rarity, the Venus Flytrap.

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One of hundreds of Flytrap yearlings that made it into the ground on Friday.
A handful of North Carolina’s ‘carnivorous curiosities.’ (Port City Daily photo/CHRISTINA HALEY)

WILMINGTON — The coast of North Carolina is home to an abundance of plants and wildlife, but none quite as unique as the Venus Flytrap. The North Carolina Coastal Land Trust will be highlighting the little carnivorous plants this weekend at the 7th annual ‘Flytrap Frolic’ event, held at the Stanley Rehder Carnivorous Plant Garden.

The Venus Flytrap is a rare species, so rare in fact, that it is only found in a 70 to 100 mile area around the Port City. According to Stephanie Borrett, Development Assistant for the NC Coastal Land Trust, this is attributed to the very specific environment it needs to survive.

“Flytraps grow in our area because our boggy soils flood and drain quickly, which leaves them pretty nutrient poor. These plants have figured out how to feed themselves in other ways,” Borrett said.

The flytraps do just that. According to a 2016 study by German scientist Rainer Hedrich, using tiny hairs on the inside of the “mouth,” the the detects prey unfortunate enough to cross its path. After five triggers, the mouth closes and the plant begins the slow process of digestion.

The specific feeding and growing patterns of carnivorous plants highlights the need for events like these in our area,” according to Borrett.

Wilmington's carnivorous plant garden also features fellow meat-eating flora, the pitcher plants. (Port City Daily photo/CHRISTINA HALEY)
Wilmington’s carnivorous plant garden also features fellow meat-eating flora, the pitcher plants. (Port City Daily photo/CHRISTINA HALEY)

“A lot of places are being developed, like Brunswick County where they are going mad with development,” Borrett said. “A lot of the flytrap and pitcher plant habitat is disappearing, and they’re inching upward on the concerned list.” Borrett said, “This event helps folks learn how to find these plants, and gives an opportunity to talk about ecology, conservation, and habitat loss.”

According to Borrett, the US Coastal Plain was recently added to a world wide bio-diversity hotspot list. To be added to the list, an area must have suffered 70 percent habitat loss, and have over 1,500 endemic, or native, species. The carnivorous plant species only grows in the coastal plain.

“We need to be saving this land now,” Borrett said. “It’s already special, and it’s already disappearing.”

The Flytrap Frolic

The Flytrap Frolicis held in the Stanley Rehder Carnivorous Plant Garden – the world’s only public carnivorous plant garden – which is operated by the City of Wilmington under a long-term lease from the NC Coastal Land Trust. The lease protects the Garden from development, while allowing folks the chance to observe the plants in their native habitat.

“The Stanley Rehder Carnivorous Plant Garden is named for the man who, as a hobbyist, cultivated flytraps and pitcher plants in this conservation area of the Coastal Land Trust,” Borrett said.

A Venus flytrap at Wilmington's Rehder Carnivorous Plant Garden behind Alderman Elementary School. File photo.
‘People think they’re (flytraps) the size of “Audrey” from the movies, but they’re not, they’re tiny!’ said Stephanie Borrett of the North Carolina Coastal Land Trust. (Port City Daily photo/CHRISTINA HALEY)

Students studying plant biology from the University of North Carolina, Wilmington, will be in attendance to field any questions folks may have about the tiny carnivores.

“The event has grown every year, and runs rain or shine. This gives people the opportunity to get down there with folks in the garden that can help find these tiny little plants,” Borrett said. “They think they’re the size of ‘Audrey’ from the movies, but they’re not, they’re tiny!”

The Flytrap Frolic is free to attend, and is a North Carolina scieNCe festival sanctioned event. The Frolic will have exhibits and activities designed for people of all ages.

'Kelvin' the ScieNCe Festival mascot. You can win your own Kelvin by participating in the scavenger hunt at the 'Flytrap Frolic' (Port City Daily photo/Courtesy NC COASTAL LAND TRUST)
‘Kelvin’ the ScieNCe Festival mascot. You can win your own Kelvin by participating in the scavenger hunt at the ‘Flytrap Frolic’ (Port City Daily photo/Courtesy NC COASTAL LAND TRUST)

Halyburton Park will be in attendance with a selection of snakes. Other live animals, such as bearded dragons, will be there as well.

According to Borrett, there will also be flytrap inspired crafts, and a passport guided “plant scavenger hunt” in the garden. Participants in the scavenger hunt will be entered into a drawing for a plush toy version of Kelvin, the scieNCe festival mascot.

There will also be a “feely-box” exploration exhibit, that will teach people how carnivorous plants attract their prey.

In addition to the festivities, Venus Flytraps from Transplanted Garden will be on sale for $5.

“With a bit of mineral water and the occasional fly, you can learn all about the flytraps in your own home,” Borrett said. 

The Stanley Rehder Carnivorous Plant Garden is located at 3800 Canterbury Road, in Wilmington. The Flytrap Frolic will be held Saturday, April 22, from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m., parking will be available at Alderman Elementary School, or across the street at the Baptist Center.

The Flytrap Frolic is sponsored by Live Oak Bank, The Transplanted Garden and other area businesses. For information about the North Carolina Coastal Land Trust, visit its website at coastallandtrust.org.