Venus flytraps are still being taken illegally from public places, with the most recent theft from a small community garden in Boiling Spring Lakes.
The theft of the protected flytrap plants is the third such reported incident in the Lower Cape Fear region in the past six months.
Between 125 and 150 flytraps were discovered missing, and believed to have been taken sometime between September 16 and October 14 from the Bog Garden located behind the city’s community center.
Boiling Spring Lakes Garden Club president Judy Thuer inspected the garden on Monday, which, while still full of pitcher plants, butterwort, sundews and other species native to the nearby Boiling Spring Lakes Preserve, had some noticeable holes.
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“Where this white sand was used to be full of flytraps,” Thuer said. “They only grow in this area. It is a shame that people are raiding us, especially a little garden club like us. It’s disappointing, because this is where we take school children to show them what they look like.”
The Bog Garden was created last spring after club members worked with the city and the N.C. Nature Conservancy’s regional office to assemble the plants, sandy soil and rocks to construct it.
Most of the plants stolen were donated by Andy Walker with the Raulston Arboretum.
Since its installation, the garden has been used as a teaching tool and display to showcase examples of species found in this area.
“This little patch is a high point for visitors, especially local children, because they were able to interact and examine the plants as they learn about them,” Thuer said. “We have very limited funds that we raise ourselves from the sale of rain barrels.”
Earlier this month the Brunswick County Sheriff’s Office investigated a burglary at the Fly Trap Farm at Supply, after owners of that business discovered that about 10,000 Venus flytrap and pitcher plants were taken. Those plants were reportedly valued at $65,000. In May, nearly 90-percent of the flytraps in the Stanley Rehder Carnivorous Garden, located in Wilmington’s Alderman Park, were stolen.
The City of Wilmington said those stolen plants were valued in total at $20,000.
“They are taken and sold on the black market to people who do not care where they came from,” Thuer said. “Most of the time, those you see for sale at area farmers markets are typically reputable and come from farms, but always ask the source before buying.”
Thuer said approximately four years ago the club replanted about 100 flytraps that were recovered from a poacher along a walking trail near the community center in another location. Those too were taken illegally shortly thereafter.
Thuer has notified Boiling Spring Lakes police regarding the latest theft, and police are investigating the matter and drawing up a plan of action.
Currently, theft of the plants is only considered a misdemeanor under state law, but the N.C. Plant Conservation Board has been working to make theft of flytraps and other rare native plants species a felony. Those caught poaching have typically had to pay a fine and do some community service.
Anyone with information that could lead to the arrest of the person(s) behind the thefts is asked to call Brunswick County Sheriff’s Office detective Jason Fennell at (910) 880-4895 or the Boiling Spring Lakes Police Department at (910) 363-0011.