Protecting an Endemic Gem

The North Carolina Botanical Garden has been conserving Venus flytraps, native to only the North and South Carolina coasts, for nearly 50 years. To better understand these carnivorous plants, UNC researchers are engaged in projects on flytrap genetics and differentiating prey from pollinators.

July 27th, 2021

Infographic based around the Venus flytrap. Title reads “Friend or Food?” with a brief description of “The North Carolina Botanical Garden (NCBG) has been conserving Venus flytraps for nearly 50 years. While best known for their jaw-like leaves, the plants also grow beautiful flowers in spring. NCBG staff have collected thousands of seeds from the matured perennial and, in collaboration with local researchers*, are engaged in projects on Venus flytrap genetics and identifying the differences between its prey and pollinators.” There is a large drawing of the Venus flytrap, labeled by its scientific name “Dionaea muscipula.” Under the section of Common prey, you can find drawings of a carpenter ant (also known as a camponotus), a wolf spider (also known as a lycosidae), a jumping spider (also known as a salticidae), and a flea beetle variant (known as a disonycha admirabila). Under the section Common pollinators, you can find drawings of a sweat bee (also known as a halictidae), a notch-tipped flower longhorn (also known as a typocerus sinuatus), a checkered beetle (also known as a cleridae), and a mordella beetle (also known as a mordella atrata). Below that, you can find a set of pie charts, showing the difference between flying and walking pollinators and prey. Of pollinators, 87% of them are flying, and of prey, only 20% of them fly. Also found is a pie chart that says “Only 14% of pollinators become prey.) Also found is a label on the stem of the flower, saying “Flowers are elevated anywhere between 6 to 13 inches.” A section labeled “Do not touch” reads “The inside of the trap contains three thin, stiff hairs on each side. One hair must be touched twice or two in sequence for the trap to close around its prey.” There is a drawing of the Venus flytrap leaf open, showing the three hairs. A stamp of a shield with an “X” through it reads “vulnerable plant.” Section labeled “How do they eat?” says After the Venus flytrap catches its prey, the trap seals itself off, changing from a “mouth” to a “stomach.” The leaf starts to secrete digestive fluids, dissolving the soft, nutritious parts of the prey. After a couple days, the leaf reopens, revealing just the exoskeleton of the prey, also called the "husk." Below that is a three-step progress drawing with the labels “trapping,” “digesting,” and “discarding.” Below the complete drawing of the Venus flytrap, you can find the section “Conservation & Historical Distribution.” This states “The Venus flytrap is internationally listed as vulnerable and is under consideration for federal listing on the U.S. endangered species list. This is mainly due to:” with three icons for “poaching,” “fire suppression,” and “habitat destruction.” Under that is a drawing of North and South Carolina. There are areas on the coast highlighted in a light green and a dark green. Light green depicts the historical areas of occurrence (not found in 20+ years) and dark green is for the areas of occurrence. This section’s description reads “While Venus flytrap is probably the most widely recognized carnivorous plant, it is only native to a small area of the North and South Carolina coasts. Although large populations grow on protected lands, the species is now vulnerable to extinction and loss of wild genetic variation.” The bottom section is labeled “What can I do?” Two icons are present, one for “Look” that has the description “Local landowners can play a significant role in maintaining the remaining flytrap populations and preventing extinction. If you are located within the historic range of this fascinating plant species, you may have Venus flytraps on your land.” The section one is labeled “Purchase” and reads “If you would like to purchase Venus flytraps for your home garden, it is important to acquire them from an ethical source. Look for garden centers and nurseries that sell plants that are not harvested from the wild.” An are in pink reads “Questions? Have Venus flytraps on your land? Want to know how to help with conservation efforts? Want to learn more about this state symbol? Please go to” The final bit of information notes “*NCBG staff often collaborate with researchers from UNC, N.C. State University, and other local institutions.”