BRUNSWICK COUNTY, N.C. — Venus flytraps are a big part of Wilmington's culture. The only place in the world where the rare and protected plant grows is within a 70-mile radius of Wilmington, and poaching of the plants is a big problem.
The Venus flytrap lies all but hidden in the green swamp game lands and it can take hours to find just a few of the plants. They grow low to the ground and are often covered by pine straw or other plant life.
North Carolina wildlife officers say poachers get dropped off at game lands to camp for days just to look for the plants. Then the poachers sell them at flea markets or garage sales to make quick money.
"It is difficult to catch these folks. As you can see right here, we are out in the middle of nowhere. There's not a lot of traffic here, so there's not a lot for us to be sitting right here. It's not like I'm going to be sitting around that pine tree right there watching all day long after this cluster of Venus flytraps," Officer T. C. Stacy of the North Carolina Wildlife Commission told WECT.
In an effort to crack down on poachers, the state upgraded the theft of flytraps growing in the wild from a misdemeanor to a felony in 2014.