The habitat of the Venus flytrap (scientific name Dionaea muscipula) is limited to a handful of locations on the southern east coast of the United States. It thrives within its ecological niche and is perfectly adapted to its range. The main threats to the Venus flytrap are poaching and habitat loss.
The North and South Carolina border region is the Venus flytrap's native area. The plants grow in boggy areas on the coastal plain in the eastern part of the these states, where the climate is relatively warm throughout the winter and humid. They grow in the Green Swamp and in Carolina Beach State Park. It naturally occurs in less than 100 sites, and almost all are in North Carolina.
The Venus flytrap is not native to Florida, but it has established itself in areas of the Panhandle where the habitat is similar to eastern North Carolina. Seeds were originally scattered in the 1930s by the operator of a carnivorous plant botanical garden in Wilmington, North Carolina. The plants became naturalized and large colonies of their descendants are found growing wild.
Venus flytraps have adapted to the very poor soils of swampland by catching insects and absorbing the nutrients they need for photosynthesis. The soil is usually wet to soggy and prevents most other plants from inhabiting those areas. The areas are also prone to frequent seasonal burns that clear the land of vegetation. Venus flytrap roots survive fires and re-sprout and are able to grow with limited competition.
In North Carolina, Venus flytraps are found growing along ponds and swamps with dwarf cypress trees, various rushes and grasses. Other carnivorous plants grow in these areas, including pitcher plants, butterworts and sundews. In Florida, it is found in association with native pitcher plants along the boggy edges of pine forests.
Venus flytraps are becoming increasingly rare in the wild. Thirty-seven sites that were known to have populations in North and South Carolina were destroyed between 1978 and 1993. The Green Swamp has been almost completely drained to make way for golf courses and housing developments.
Poaching of Venus flytaps for the nursery trade has been a longtime problem. The plant is now protected by law and it is illegal to remove or damage the plants in their natural habitat. Most sites other than the well-known tourist areas are kept secret by botanists and naturalists.