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Communique: Flytrap Frolic | Saturday, April 21 @ Stanley Rehder Carnivorous Plant Garden

Botanist William Curtis
18th century drawing of the Venus Fly Trap discovered on the North Carolina coast


The Flytrap Frolic is Saturday, April 21, 9:00am-1:00pm at the Stanley Rehder Carnivorous Plant Garden, 3800 Canterbury Road. This free event is for all ages-and especially for young people, who will enjoy facepainting, games, crafts, and the live animal exhibit.

Credit WHQR/gg
Stephanie Borrett (l) & Diana Corbett

Stephanie Borrett, the Director of Donor Relations at Coastal Land Trust, and Diana Corbett, former CLT Board Member and Flytrap founder, talk about the Frolic above. See our extended interview below.

Gina:     Diana, how did you start the Fly Trap Frolic? What was your inspiration?

Diana:    I woke up one morning and thought, wouldn't it be fun to highlight that garden? And so I invited Camilla Herlevich, who is the Executive Director of the Coastal Land Trust and then some other people from the Coastal Land Trust to go out to the gardens with me. I pitched the idea of the Fly Trap Frolic. It's all about the kids because if you can get the children there, the parents will follow. When we were there we ran into Dr. Rocks, who is Phil Garwood from Cape Fear Community College, and he volunteered his students to lead tours that day during the Fly Trap Frolic. What we didn't plan on was the timing. Our first frolic was in the latter part of July. It was so hot. All the plants had burnt up and we only had one fly trap that we could see. So it was quite the thing, but we had about 400 people there. We called it the carnivore festival because we had raptors, we had snakes, we had the carnivorous plants. It was just really fun.

Gina:     But the fly traps were burnt?

Diana:    They were burnt crispy. We found one. There was one little sundew. The pitcher plants were kind of brown as well, but it worked and it just sort of launched itself. We highlighted Stanley Rehder, who gave a tours that day. He gave lectures as did Phil Garwood. The second year we named the garden after Stanley, which was a tremendous thing. The third year the city stepped up and created the viewing platform and then also the overlook and they redid the inside of the gardens. It was just absolutely great. They also put in an accessibility ramp so that even people with wheelchairs can go down and see the flytraps.

Gina:     How long ago was this?

Stephanie:    Eight years.

Diana:    We average about 500 people who come out and it's all different types of people. 

Gina:     Stephanie, it’s been eight years. What can we expect now? 

Stephanie:    There are so many fly traps, it's awesome. The garden is looking beautiful. Participants can expect to have lots of activities. We have crafts and we have carnivorous plant corn hole this year, which is a game our Americorps service member created where kids will throw the beanbags and feed a pitcher plant and a fly trap. There's face painting. Halyburton will be there and Andy Fairbanks, the educator from Halyburton will be there with some animals that are safe to touch, which is always a hit. The North American Sarracenia Conservancy from Brunswick County will be there with members and a youth board member who will be one of our garden guides.

We'll have students from UNCW and other folks that know about carnivorous plants in the garden to be able to help people find different plants. We have a scavenger hunt. Everyone will get a card when they walk in and the garden guides will help you find all the different kinds of carnivorous plants in the garden. There will be several other types of activities to do for all ages, but kind of geared toward the kids.

Stephanie:    It's his Saturday, April 21st. It's from 9:00 until 1:00. People can park in the Aldermen Elementary parking lot and then walk right around the fence into the garden area.

Diana:    It's really interesting how many people attend this. We had one mother and child fly in from Utah just in order to see the fly traps because he had studied them in school and never seen them before. And here's this Fly Trap Frolic, they'd gone on the web and found it. It was pretty spectacular.

Stephanie:    It's pretty cool. I mean, that's a kid who is really deeply engaged in ecology and science. So one of the cool things about the festival is that it is a North Carolina Science Festival official event. In April of every year the NC Science Festival happens at places all over North Carolina and we applied several years ago to be an official event and we've gotten that designation every year. So it's pretty cool.

Gina:     In terms of the fly traps, I think not everyone knows that they are a very special thing right here in the Cape Fear region. Can you tell us a little bit about that?

Stephanie:    Yeah, absolutely. Fly traps only grow within about a hundred miles of Wilmington. Wilmington as its native home base. Our ecology is very unique here because of fire adapted ecology that has happened over a long, long time. So the fly traps adapted to be able to grow in very nutrient poor soil, which if you think about our ecology with sandy soils, that doesn't hold a lot, and so it adapted to be able to capture and get the nutrients that it needs from insects and other animals. So that is why it is native to this region. It is being considered on the endangered list because of lots of different influences, including poaching- which is now a felony- and other pressures on its habitat, which is one of the reasons why the Coastal Land Trust champions the fly trap. It grows in places where we save land. Eastern North Carolina is the only place where we focus our efforts to do conservation.

Gina:     You said something about the Sarracenia Conservancy?

Stephanie:    The Northern American Sarracenia Conservancy is a group. It's a non-profit. There's at least a chapter in Brunswick, but it could be nationwide. Sarracenia is the scientific name for pitcher plant. There are tons of pitcher plants of many different varieties in the Rehder garden and they are some of the most obvious plants because they grow up taller. Their flowers stick up really tall and they're bright white and purple and yellow flowers. So a lot of what participants will see when they come on Saturday are those pitcher plant flowers and then you kinda gotta get down deep to find the fly traps. They grow lower to the ground.

Diana:    Stephanie, I think you bring up a really good point. People think of Little Shop of Horrors and they think the fly traps are going to be these massive plants out there that's going to come and attack the little kids. Actually, you have to get almost on your hands and knees to see these because the fly trap is about a little bit larger than a silver dollar. And then the sundews are about the size of a quarter, and even sometimes the size of a nickel. So you have to have good eyes to see them.

Gina:     I know people have stolen fly traps from the Piney Ridge Nature Reserve.

Stephanie:    They did several years ago, about a thousand flytraps were poached out of that garden. Due to community fundraising efforts and kind of a rallying cry, funds were raised and plants were replanted there over time and they are thriving now. It was one of the factors that played into pressures on our North Carolina legislature, led by Ted Davis, to make it a felony to poach a fly trap from anywhere. This happened to be City of Wilmington Stanley Reader Garden, but if you get caught anywhere and you have fly traps, you are going to be charged with a felony. It used to be a misdemeanor so people did it all the time because there's not really consequence.

Gina:     Can you buy a fly trap?

Stephanie:    You can buy one on Saturday for $5 at the Fly Trap Frolic.

Gina:     Why did these people steal all these fly traps?

Stephanie:    There's a black market for them, especially their seeds. They're thought to have some medicinal or homeopathic uses, I think. It's bizarre. People dig them up, they sell them and they sell them illegally, which is why you can purchase them from reputable sources. One place in town is The Transplanted Garden. They've actually donated a hundred fly traps to the Fly Trap Frolic. So the first hundred participants who want to buy one can purchase one for $5 at the Frolic. So that becomes a fundraiser for us. A little shout out to The Transplanted Garden, but it's also that you're getting a fly trap that was cultivated properly and from seed and not poached. If you go online to buy one, you never know.

Gina:     Could I plant a fly trap in my backyard and then it'll eat up all the bugs?

Diana:    Boy, that's a great idea. No, I don't think they would survive.

Stephanie:    It's fairly particular where they grow. They like peat soils that drain really quickly, but they get really wet. Nutrient-poor. Pitcher plants are a little less picky. You can plant pitcher plants, especially if you're land is watery. My backyard has a lot of water in it so I could probably plant fly traps and be fine. I have heard people planting pitcher plants and they see their mosquito populations go down.

Gina:     Does the Fly Trap Frolic raise any money for the Coastal Land Trust?

Stephanie:    It does. It is a free event for the community. We have a long list of sponsors- individuals and corporations- that have supported the event to make it free. So it's not really a fundraiser, but cost is covered by the sponsors.

Gina:     And it's free for the public.

Stephanie:    And it's absolutely free for the public. It is a rain or shine event. This year the weather is going to be great. In the past we've had 500 people show up in the rain.

Diana:    The garden is just so spectacular right now because it has all the flowers. The pitcher plants are going to be the plants that bloom first. Then here comes your fly traps after that. It's a real green garden and you've got your yellow flowers, you've got your purple pitcher plants. It's just spectacular.

Stephanie:    You guys have reworked the timing of the event to match the non-burned up times now. So everything's in bloom.

Gina:     So even though you're not on the board anymore, you're still working with the Fly Trap Frolic.

Diana:    Absolutely. It's just really fun to see all the children come out. They get their face painted and then they see these plants that are so rare and then they learn about them. At one point in time we had a geocaching box a couple different places out there, but we took those up and it's just fun to see the kids and they get their families involved and just the sheer amount of the variety of people who are out there as well. It's young people. It's old people. It's everybody.

Gina:     Do you have any fly traps?

Diana:    I don't. I killed mine accidentally.

Stephanie:    Apparently they're pretty particular about the water and you can't feed them too much and can't water them too much. You kind of have to ignore them, but then if they didn't get enough food, they'll die immediately. They're picky.

Diana:    I will say that I'm wearing my fly trap pin in honor of this week. And then also I have my fly trap dish towels out.

Gina:     Tell me, what is the Coastal Land Trust?

Stephanie:    The Coastal Land Trust is the only land trust in North Carolina whose sole focus is to save coastal lands. So that means that we save the lands that eastern North Carolinians love, particularly with ecological and historical significance. For instance, we just saved a thousand acres up in Bertie County that has pretty significant historical meaning. The lost colony is suspected to possibly have settled there for a period of time and artifacts have been found on that land. That land was slated for development and it would have been gone if the Coastal Land Trust hadn't been able to step in and save it. Locally in this region, we focus on lands where longleaf pine either still stands or it could be restored. Those are also similar habitats to where fly traps thrive. We save land from the South Carolina border all the way to the Virginia border east of I-95.

It's all of coastal North Carolina. There is a lot of variety in the lands that we save and many are open to the public through partnerships with municipalities. If you go on our website coastallandtrust.org, you can find lands that we've saved and you can sort them by places to visit or open to the public or different initiatives like waterway initiatives that we have had. There's a lot to find out about on our website. There are a lot of places where people can go and visit to see places that Coastal Land Trust has saved for them and for future generations.

Transcription Assistance by Production Assistant, Lindsay Wright