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THE TRUTH ABOUT VENUS FLY TRAPS AND THEIR SECRET WORLD
Written By Colin Clayton of Triffid Park

Colin Clayton in a field of Dionaea muscipula in Atlanta, U.S.A.. Note the white flowers of the venus fly traps.

In the U. S. A. on the border of North and South Carolina is a tiny area where the mysterious and myth ridden Dionaea muscipula grows. Tens of thousands of speculative and misinformed words have been written about the ifs and why of why they grow there.

Here at last is the truth about this incredible plant.

First up a quick snapshot of their habitat and growing conditions. The habitat fly traps grow in naturally is called the "Savannah", which is a series of raised low islands, ranging in size from 1 to 5 hectares, of which probably no more than 50 of these islands remain in their original condition. They are surrounded by water in the summer hurricane season. These islands which the Indians call "Pocosin" [meaning bog on a hill] are approximately two metres higher than the inter-connecting densely vegetated bogs, which are from one to two hundred metres wide. These islands are kept free of competing vegetation by fire. These lightning lit fires burn out the "Savannah" on a regular two to seven year cycle. The fires only burn out the higher parts of the "Pocosin", the lower parts are always too wet to burn. The soil of the lower parts consists of almost pure peat, but because the vegetation never burns, it remains dense and does not let enough light through to ground level for the fly traps to grow. The "Pocosin's" soil, if it can be called that, is almost pure white fine sand, p.H. 5.5, and T.D.S. for all practical purposes is 0. It contains a significant amount of charcoal, the remnants of centuries of the aforementioned fires. During the growing season temperatures remain constantly at or near 40 c and the humidity is close to 100 % .

Now to explode the myth of their mystic soil and growing conditions. To put it bluntly there is nothing different about where they grow, from tens of thousands of hectares of surrounding swamps, stretching over four states [Florida, Georgia, North and South Carolina]. In fact they actually grow better in places other than their natural habitat. These places include modified habitats within their original boundaries, e.g. roadside verges, edges of drains, beneath power lines, even mowed grass areas such as suburban lawns. It doesn't seem to matter where they grow, but what they grow in. All these sites have several things in common, which are sphagnum peat based soils, low T.D.S. (total dissolved solids (salts)) and a low pH. They have been introduced into swamps and bogs in New Zealand, Great Britain and the United States where flowers set seed and thrive, which means that there is not even some secret insect pollinator. Also commercial production nurseries world wide, where every aspect of their growth pattern has been analyzed and fine tuned, until every plant is a science fiction-like clone better than those growing in their original habitat. Why they grow where they do is lost in history. Unbelievably their seed has evolved to resist, yes I repeat resist, distribution by any known means, for they or are not eaten by animals, birds or insects, nor do they float or fly. When the seeds are mature they simply fall to the ground beneath the parent plant, in the still and dry hot weather. This is completely out of sequence to all the other endemic pants in the area, which distribute their seeds in the hurricane season where they get the benefits of wind, rain, updraughts and flowing water. Fly traps simply have no mechanical means to distribute their seed. The only conclusion is that when these plants evolved, a different set of circumstances was in place than there are now. This could include animals, birds or insects which are now no longer in that locality, or extinct. Things that we have not even thought of, or such things as continental drift, different weather patterns, dramatically different sea levels, could account for their extremely limited range, even though the habitat is suitable for them over an enormous adjacent area.