COLUMBIA, SC – Conservationists are pushing for the Venus flytrap to become the official carnivorous plant of South Carolina, joining other official foods such as the state bird (Carolina Wren), the state opera (Porgy and Bess) and the state snack (boiled peanuts).
There are only about five dozen in South Carolina official government stuff. There are already five different plants, including yellow jasmine, which is the official flower, the official fruit, the peach, and Indian grass, which, oddly enough, is the official grass of South Carolina.
But supporters say honoring the Venus flytrap isn’t just one extra thing students see on their elementary school worksheet.
Instead, it’s about protecting and raising awareness of the interesting species found only here place on the globe: upper coastal South Carolina and a small portion of southeastern North Carolina.
“In a small state like ours that’s growing every day, we have to protect what’s right here,” said South Carolina Sen. Thomas McElwain, who chaired the subcommittee that voted to advance on Tuesday. account increase the status of a carnivorous plant.
The Democrat knows all about the appeal of a plant with leaves that can trap insects for a food source in the nutrient-poor soil where it grows.
McElveen said his mom bought him one at the market when he was a kid. He named it “Audrey II” after the voracious and cruel Venus flytrap in Little shop of horrors.
In the wild, Venus Flytraps are about the size of lima beans and do not harm anything except spiders and flies. They have special hairs that, when combed—twice in a row to reduce the number of false alarms from dust or rain—clamp the leaves around the insect.
If the prey continues to move and is too large to escape from the hairs, the plant releases an acid that dissolves and digests the insect and provides it with nutrients.
“South Carolina should be proud of this plant. It’s rare worldwide,” Coastal Conservation League biologist Trapper Fowler told the senators.
Venus flytraps face two great enemies – poachers and development. Poaching is illegal, and the best groups of plants are in heritage areas where they can grow away from thieves and avoid people in South Carolina’s fastest-growing region. They’re also delicate plants that need fire more than water—fires die out faster, denser undergrowth can smother smaller fly traps.
The bill still has to go through the full Senate Committee on Family and Veterans Affairs and then the Senate before going to the House.
But there’s plenty of time this year for the Venus flytrap to join other official South Carolina things like the official spider (the Carolina wolf spider), the picnic kitchen (barbecue), the dance (the Shag) and the rock (blue granite).
“You don’t just name this plant and put it at the end of our legislative manual,” McElveen said. “Maybe you’re doing something to raise awareness and protect nature.”
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