Conservation of Venus Flytrap

Adolf Ceska (
Fri, 13 Jan 1995 01:00:10 -0800 (PST)

(Article by Jane C. MacKnight & Vonda Frantz - abbrev.)

The Venus Flytrap is a sole representative of the genus Dionaea
(its Latin name is D. muscipula Ellis), a member of the
Droseraceae family which contains Sundew (Drosera - about 80
spp.), Waterwheel (Aldrovanda - 1 sp.), and Portuguese Sundew
(Drosophyllum - 1 sp.).

Dionaea muscipula is endemic to a 320-km strip of coastal plain
in southeastern North Carolina and northeastern South Carolina
where the sandy-peaty, acidic, low-nutrient soils remain wet.
Populations decline rapidly when overgrown by shrubs and taller
plants. Periodic fires are characteristic of Venus Flytrap
habitat. Unless other management techniques are employed,
drainage or suppression of fires will cause extirpation of the
habitat and Venus Flytrap populations.

The Venus Flytrap is traded as a novelty plant in North America,
Europe and Asia. In Germany, the plants are also used in a
medicine, Carnivora, which is sold as a claimed remedy for
cancer and AIDS (Ref.: Walker, M. 1991. The Carnivora cure for
cancer, AIDS, and other pathologies. - Townsend Newsletter for
Doctors. Stamford, CT, June).

The Venus Flytrap is propagated in both the USA and Europe.
Methods of propagation - by division, tissue culture, leaf-base
culture, from leaf blades or by seeds - are relatively easy and
require between one and three years for the plants to reach a
marketable size.

No commercial propagation or trade in Venus Flytrap was iden-
tified in South Carolina. Nine nurseries in North Carolina found
to trade in Venus Flytrap were visited or interviewed by
telephone. Only one nursery was found to conduct true artificial
propagation, while others either propagate by division and
continually replenish stock with wild plants or rely entirely on
wild-collected plants.

Both South and North Carolina have taken measures to protect the

species. The laws prohibit collection of Venus Flytrap from
public lands, or from private lands without the permission of
the landowner. The listing of the Venus Flytrap in CITES Appen-
dix II became effective on 11 June 1992 and requires documenta-
tion for all international exports and re-exports. All wild-
collected plants destined for export require export permits and
artificially-propagated plants require a certificate of artifi-
cial propagation.

Small-scale collecting may occur in South Carolina, but it is
not believed to be a serious problem. Illegal collection of wild
plants in North Carolina is frequent, widespread and large-
scale. The volume of Venus Flytraps collected annually in North
Carolina may be as high as several hundred thousand plants. When
the habitat of Venus Flytrap was abundant, the impact of collec-
tion was probably negligible. But the effects of development -
bulldozing and paving of habitat, drainage of large tracks for
timber extraction, and fire suppression - have diminished the
amount of habitat, and the impact of collection is magnified.
The decrease in collecting sites causes each remaining site to
be more heavily collected.

The long-term preservation of the Venus Flytrap will require
a series of measures:
1) Reduce and control collection of wild plants.
2) Enforce state regulations and CITES.
3) Establish more protected areas.

(BEN # 88 13-January-1995)