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What is a Venus’ fly trap?

Gareth McGrath

The plant, which normally consists of several teeth-lined leaves arising in a circular pattern from a central stem, can easily fit in the palm of your hand.

But the ground-hugging plant with the big reputation is one of the most fascinating plants out there – and it’s unique to Southeastern North Carolina.

The carnivorous plant, made famous in the movie “Little Shop of Horrors” and found naturally only within about a 90-mile radius of Wilmington, works by luring insects into its leaves.

When sensitive hairs inside the leaf are triggered, it snaps shuts in less than a second, leaving the bug’s soft innards to slowly get liquidized by the plant’s digestive juices.

Five to 12 days later, the leaf reopens and the insect’s dried-up exo-skeleton falls out or gets blown away by the wind.

The flytrap is just one of several carnivorous plants native to Southeastern North Carolina. But poaching and habitat loss, since it requires boggy soils and fire to suppress competing species, has made the flytrap increasingly scarce.

The area is also home to several species of pitcher plants and sundews.

A carnivorous plant garden can be found at Wilmington’s Halyburton Park. Examples also are on display at the N.C. Aquarium at Fort Fisher.

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