The Venus fly trap stimulates our imaginations, seemingly an alien species out of a sci-fi movie. The distinctive plant emits a sweet scent that lures insects to land on its leaves, which snap and lock shut. Digestive enzymes reduce the unfortunate prey to a liquid that the plant absorbs. Venus fly traps have very particular habitat requirements that limit them to a narrow range.
Venus fly traps are found along the coast in South Carolina and southern North Carolina. According to Abigail Tucker, writing in the Smithsonian Institute's online magazine, the range Venus fly traps inhabit totals only about 100 miles long.
Venus fly traps grow in the Carolina pine savannas, along the coast of the Carolina bays. They grow in nutrient-poor soil. Because Venus fly traps devote their leaves to trapping bugs rather than photosynthesis, they need access to a lot of light to produce energy to live. For this reason, frequent wildfires also play an essential role in the fly trap's natural habitat. According to the South Carolina Department of Natural Resources, the Venus fly trap needs frequent wildfires to live.
The habitat requirements of the Venus fly trap reflect the plant's needs. Carnivorous plants consume insects as a way to obtain nutrients that most plants draw from the soil. The bog land the fly trap inhabits has poor soil but lots of bugs, so the fly trap can survive in a challenging environment. Wildfires help the plants access the high levels of sunlight they require. Wildfires destroy plants that compete with the fly trap for light without disrupting the fly trap's bulb beneath the surface. When the fire passes, the Venus fly traps grows stronger without competition from neighboring plants.
Venus fly traps are popular houseplants, and growing conditions should closely mimic their natural habitat. According to the Iowa State University Extension, fly traps thrive in moist, acidic growing medium, high humidity and full sun. It is recommended fly traps be grown in a terrarium with the growing medium consisting of two parts sphagnum moss and one part sand in an area where they will receive plenty of light.
Both North and South Carolina list the Venus fly trap as a threatened species. Although populations have been threatened by overcollection, in the opinion of Donald E. Schnell, author of "Carnivorous Plants of the United States and Canada," habitat destruction is the top reason for the loss of carnivorous plants, including the Venus fly trap. In her article, Abigail Tucker expounds on some of the particular threats facing the fly trap's habitat. Because their habitat verges on Myrtle Beach, development constantly overtakes the bogs where they like to grow. This proximity has also stopped the wildfires fly traps require.