RALEIGH, NC—Venus flytrap poaching may not seem like the most lucrative crime for those looking for an easy buck, but the uprooting of these plants to sell in roadside stands and markets is threatening the precarious recovery of this iconic coastal species.
Three North Carolinians were arrested in late January for digging up two hundred of these carnivorous plants, each one of which would fetch the thieves only approximately 10 cents a piece. After being transferred through a middleman, however, the resale value of a Venus flytrap could be more than $15 at stands or online.
The plants were located in the Green Swamp Preserve, a coastal property owned by The Nature Conservancy. The international conservation organization is attempting to reestablish the fragile flytrap, which only grows in a slim, 100-mile-wide corridor along the coast in North and South Carolina.
“Venus flytraps are only found in this tiny corner of the entire world,” said the Conservancy’s Angie Carl in a press release. “They’re depleting one of the only viable populations of flytraps remaining in the wild.”
There are fewer than 38,000 of these small plants left in the wild, compared to the millions currently in private hands. Whereas most plants receive essential nutrients such as nitrogen and phosphorous directly from the soil, Venus flytraps live in such poor soil that they must rely on other sources: the insects that thrive in the surrounding boggy habitat.
Poachers are not the only threat to the small carnivorous plant. Encroaching development has destroyed habitat, and natural wildfires, which are essential to the species’ reproduction, have been stymied in recent years to protect people and property.
The plants were recovered by the North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission and returned to The Nature Conservancy. Local staff replanted all two hundred flytraps in the reserve and encouraged the public to purchase legal plants through reputable sources, such as the North Carolina Botanical Garden in Chapel Hill.
Photo courtesy of Skip Pudney