Volume VI - Nos. 5 & 6
The Moore's Creek National Military Park at Currie, North Carolina, was created for the preservation of a battle site of the American Revolution. Not more than 30 acres lie within the boundaries of the park but the geography of those thirty acres is unique. Within such a small space such zones appear as tidal swamp, fresh water swamp, pineland meadow and sandhill. In these many types of plant zones occur more than 275 species of flowering plants.
For this reason, the national military park is interesting to botanists and students of nature as well as to historians.
One of the most interesting bits of vegetation within the boundaries of the park is the Venus Flytrap. This is one of the rare plants of the world. Its range, except for a few isolated patches reported from other localities, is within a radius of approximately 75 miles around Wilmington, North Carolina.
This peculiar plant is found generally on the edge of the sandhills where the underlying sand-rock comes to the surface. This sand-rock forms an irregular hardpan immediately beneath the surface of the earth. The soil here is highly acid under ordinary conditions and the ground immediately above it is seldom dry. The flytrap makes its home along the lower fringe of the wire grass, the low bush and running huckleberry.
The Venus Flytrap might be called one of the predators of the plant world. Much of its food consists of insects. According to Small, this insectiverous sprig of vegetable matter is "characterized by the three irritable cilia on the face of each leaf lobe which transmit the stimulus that causes the paired lobes to snap shut on an insect, and the eyelash-like cilia of the lobes which close together like the fingers when one's hands are folded, thus making sure the victim is securely held." The plant leaves themselves are approximately four inches long and terminate in the flytrap, the two halves of which are about the size of a quarter and hinged. Botanists say that when the plant snaps shut on an animate object, it will open again in from 24 to 48 hours, which is the probable period of digestion.
The Venus Flytrap is sensitive in more ways than one. Continuous punching at it will make it close, but upon closing without insect food in its maw, it opens again to reassume its vigilant watch. After the third closing without meat, the system of the plant becomes exhausted and will not click shut. Continued harassing by humans will kill it. Flies are seldom victims of the flytrap. Its prey consists generally of spiders, bugs and occasionally some larger form of marsh life. Once a frog was found trapped in one of the death chambers.
The Venus Flytrap usually grows flat against the ground. It is noticeable when the small white flowers blossom in late May or early June.
The plant grows in the acid pinelands where the spring water table is quite high, but the earth is dry in the summer. The long narrow leaf resembles the jack-in-the-pulpit flower, with which it is sometimes confused.
In the trumpet the leaf is hollow almost to its base and is not divided. The top is covered with a hood which keeps out the rain and which may or may not be an invitation to shade for insects. The leaf surface is smooth and the insect drops to the bottom where it cannot open its wings to fly.
The trumpet usually blossoms in the latter part of April or in early May.
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