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Interns and Carnivorous Plants

July 26, 2012

Don’t worry, we all survived!  Yesterday, the museum took the summer interns on a trip to Green Swamp and Lake Waccamaw.  It was a great opportunity to see a new part of the state and to spend some time with the other interns.  Here in the Natural World Investigate Lab, we are thinking about adding some carnivorous plants to the room and following is a brief introduction to these plants and one of their natural habitats.

Green Swamp is a Nature Conservancy area to protect wet long leaf pine habitat.  Long leaf pines used to cover much of the Southeast United States but are now only found in 2–3% of that area.  This tremendous loss of forest is due to the naval stores and fire suppression.  North Carolina used to be one of the leaders in the naval industry because of our pine trees that provided the waterproof coating needed for ships.  Also, as population grew and with that habitat conversion, fires were suppressed.  Long leaf pines are a fire maintained habitat which means that fires (usually fast moving and naturally ending) are necessary to maintain the ecosystem.

A forest you can see right through. The long leaf pine savanna in Green Swamp.

Also at Green Swamp were native carnivorous plants.  Venus fly traps are endemic to a radius of 75 miles around Wilmington and were plentiful in this long leaf pine savanna.  Pitcher plants and sundews were also found in the swamp. Charles Darwin was amazed by these insectivorous plants that adapted to nitrogen-poor soils by attracting and consuming insects.  While pitcher plants have a more “sit and wait” attitude toward trapping, Venus fly traps have the ability to “grab” their prey when their sensors are activated.  These plants are fascinating and hopefully we will have some in our lab soon! For now, head over the main building and check them out there!

The endemic Venus fly trap awaiting some prey.

Pitcher plants growing in abundance at the swamp.

Many thanks to Tullie, Jerry, and Jan along with the other staff that came with us yesterday for a great trip!

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