Carl White's Life in the Carolinas

Unexpected Treasures
The Carolinas’ Flytrap
by Suzelle Sinclair
suzelle.sinclair@earthlink.net

“Though familiarity may not breed contempt, it takes off the edge of admiration.”

~William Hazlitt

When thinking about exotic plants, the Venus Flytrap tops the list. This carnivorous plant is intriguing to observe as it attracts, traps and consumes its prey. The “trap” is made of two hinged lobes at the end of each leaf. These lobes have an aroma that attracts insects looking for food, such as flies. They do not attract insects that are looking for pollen or nectar. Each lobe is equipped with hair-like projections that when stimulated cause the two lobes to snap shut, trapping insects between them. The traps are edged with small bristles that interlock when the trap shuts, ensuring prey cannot escape. The unusual character of this plant stirs the imagination and even inspired the horror story, “Little Shop of Horrors”.

I remember as a young girl being fascinated with the plant. I asked my mother to buy me one at a local garden shop. Although I don’t believe she was thrilled at the idea, it was less commitment than a puppy, so she reluctantly agreed. The poor plant soon met its demise in captivity at the hands of a young girl who soon tired of finding dead bugs to feed it. This is a plant that belongs in its natural habitat in the wild, where it can live up to twenty years. The Venus Flytrap is internationally listed as vulnerable. It is also under consideration for federal listing on the U.S. endangered species list. This species is threatened by over-collection, habitat destruction, and fire suppression.

At the time, I did not give much thought to the Venus Flytrap’s natural environment. The name “Venus” lead me to believe it must be some far away alien place. It wasn’t until until many years later that I discovered a fascinating fact about the natural habitat of this exotic plant. It was not from some far away land. This extremely unique plant, like me, is a native Carolinian. It occupies distinct long leaf pine habitats and is indigenous to only fifteen counties in North and South Carolina’s coastal and Sandhills regions. The Venus Flytrap is a perennial plant that blooms each year, producing white flowers from May to June.

As I walk through the coastal forest, savoring the sweet aroma of pine, I stop to closely observe these unique plants. In nature they are even more amazing. Unlike my poor captive plant that sadly only ate the dead bugs I found to feed it, these plants attract fresh insects on their own. They naturally help to reduce the coastal insect population and help to keep the ecosystem in balance.

I wonder, however, if I had realized when I was young that this plant was not from some far away land, would I have found it as fascinating? My thoughts go to the many things that we overlook because they are familiar. For some reason we think that treasured objects come from far away places. We tend to overlook the beauty of things that are more commonplace.

Breathing in the fragrance of the pine, listening to the songs of the birds, looking at the rays of sunlight streaming through the tree branches, I ponder the joys of simple pleasures. As I turn to leave, I pause to absorb the beauty of this place, a place close to home and familiar. I remind myself to to look for beauty and unexpected treasures even in the most familiar of places, in my own state, in my own backyard, in those closest to me and even within myself.

VENUS FLYTRAP FLOWER PAINTING BY SUZELLE SINCLAIR
VENUS FLYTRAP FIELD PAINTING BY SUZELLE SINCLAIR

For more information about the Venus Flytrap, visit the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service website. A fact sheet from this government agency is available at:For more information about the Venus Flytrap, visit the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service website. A fact sheet from this government agency is available at: https://www.fws.gov/southeast/pdf/fact-sheet/venus-flytrap.pdf

Information about the Venus Flytrap is also available at the National Wildlife Federation website:

https://www.nwf.org/Educational-Resources/Wildlife-Guide/Plants-and-Fungi/Venus-Flytrap

CHARLOTTE WEATHER