April Meeting — Richard Jones and the Venus Flytrap

Monday, April 15, 2019  –  7:30 PM

The Federal Point Historic Preservation Society will hold its monthly meeting on Monday, April 15, 2019, at 7:30 pm at the Federal Point History Center, 1121-A North Lake Park Blvd., adjacent to Carolina Beach Town Hall.

Our program this month will be presented by Richard Jones, who is licensed by the North Carolina Department of Agriculture to grow Venus Flytraps.  Richard will talk about the history and biology of our most famous native plant.

While it’s against the law to remove or poach Venus Flytraps from the wild, Richard Jones has gotten permission to legally harvest seeds to grow and sell the plant. He is licensed to grow the plants by the North Carolina Department of Agriculture’s endangered species division and is inspected on a regular basis.

“The requirements are that they be farm-raised and I do grow from seed,” Jones explained. “I produce the seed myself. It is all done in house and I have done it that way for many years.”

“It is not so much hard as it is slow,” Jones says. “For the first two or three years, they are just so tiny, they are just little pin-pricks of chlorophyll, and then for the third and certainly by the fourth year, you get a growing spurt. But up until that time, they just have to be protected from any kind of physical damage, or drying out, it is a slow, slow process.”

Jones sells the carnivorous plants at farmer’s markets but he likes to point out that this is the only place in the world that a Venus Flytrap will naturally occur. “About a 90-mile radius of Wilmington is it, for the world, and that makes people look at them in a new light very, very often, over and above just how magical it is to watch a plant catch an insect.”

While the majority of his plants are Venus Flytraps, Jones also sells pitcher plants, another carnivorous plant. He said they are not as regulated as the Flytraps.”

Photos: Venus Flytraps – StarNewsOnline

Venus Flytrap–Dobbs’ “Catch Fly”

On April 2, 1759, Governor Arthur Dobbs penned a letter to his naturalist friend in England, Peter Collinson. His words are the first written about the Venus Flytrap: “We have a kind of Catch Fly sensitive which closes upon anything that touches it, it grows in the Latitude 34 but not in 35°– I will try to save the seed here.”


President’s Letter — April, 2019

By Elaine Henson

Blockade Runner Museum

Blockade Runner Museum

Last month we featured the Picnic Shelter/Gazebo next to the Blockade Runner Museum which is the home of Federal Point Historic Preservation Society.  This month our focus is the Museum.

John Hanby Foard (1901-1977) opened the Blockade Runner Museum in the 1100 block of Lake Park Blvd., Carolina Beach, as a private venture on July 4, 1967, after years of research and construction. He moved from Newton, N.C. to Carolina Beach, living on Raleigh Avenue, in 1965 to begin the museum project.

Foard was a retired textile executive whose interest in the Civil War came from his maternal grandfather John Hazard Hanby (1841-1910).  Hanby was a Confederate veteran who owned the Atlantic View Hotel at Wrightsville Beach in the late 1880s when Wrightsville Beach was known as Atlantic View Beach.  Young Foard delighted in hearing stories of the war, blockade runners and Fort Fisher from his Grandfather Hanby which spurred his life long love of Civil War history.

The museum’s exhibits focused on Fort Fisher and the Wilmington port’s roles with ships getting through the Federal blockade carrying goods vital to the Confederate supply line.  There were several dioramas made by renowned model maker Lionel G. Forrest and ship modes by John Railey. It was open for ten years when Foard died unexpectedly in 1977, but remained open until 1983.

Civil War expert and retired UNCW Professor, Dr. Chris Fonvielle, worked at the museum as curator from 1979-1983.  He recalls that when he put the key in to lock the door on the last day, the key broke off in the lock.  After closing, many of the museums displays went to the Cape Fear Museum where they remain today.  One is a diorama of the Battle of Fort Fisher with lights and sound and the other is a very large model of Wilmington’s waterfront during the Civil War.

In 1989, the Town of Carolina Beach purchased the Blockade Runner Museum and adjoining property in the 1100 block of Lake Park Boulevard for $398,000.  Town officials and employees moved into the renovated museum in 1990 from the Municipal Building across from the marina on the corner of Carl Winner Drive and Canal Drive. In 1999, after record hurricane flooding in the Municipal Building, they added on to the remodeled former museum making room for the police, recreation and other departments.

Twenty years later we have the handsome town complex, separate Recreation Center and converted the picnic shelter, to the Federal Point History Center, on the former Blockade Runner Museum grounds.

In 2016, four of the smaller dioramas from the Blockade Runner Museum were installed in the atrium in the Carolina Beach Town Complex.  One depicts the drowning of Rose O’Neal Greenhow when the blockade Runner Condor went down in 1864; one shows an auction house scene where goods from the blockade runners were sold; another shows Union sailors boarding a blockade runner; and the last is a recreation of Lt. Commander William B. Cushing’s raid on Smithfield, present day Southport.  Visitors can view the dioramas during regular business hours at the town complex.


Vanishing Venus: Flytraps creeping toward extinction 

By Will Drabold / Will.Drabold@StarNewsOnline.com


The carnivorous plant is finding it difficult to thrive in its natural habitat.

Thousands of little holes in the ground mean one thing to self-described protectors of North Carolina’s internationally renowned plant.

Through years of excessive poaching, development destroying the plant’s natural habitat and fire suppression, the carnivorous plant is finding it difficult to thrive in its natural habitat, an area within 90 miles of Wilmington, scientists, environmentalists and law enforcement officials said.

A plant that grew in 20 counties 50 years ago now grows in only 12, with 40 percent of remaining populations labeled as having a poor chance of survival, according to 2013 data from the State Natural Heritage Program.

The recent theft of roughly 1,000 Flytraps in Alderman Park in Wilmington is likely a fraction of those poached each year, as officers and scientists say they routinely find Flytrap populations with thousands of plants ripped apart by poachers, on public and private lands.

“In single places, I would say there’s definitely evidence of (thousands being stolen),” said Rob Evans, an ecologist with the state Plant Conservation Program. “It’s appalling and frustrating. We’re working to conserve this thing for the benefit of citizens and future generations. … Then someone comes in and digs it all out and leaves this wake of destruction.”

“I’m afraid we’ll look up in 10 years and the only place we will have Flytraps is on the shelf in a Lowe’s and you won’t be able to find them in their natural habitat.”

Working each year to catalog hundreds of species across the state, the State Natural Heritage Program records “element occurrences,” or EOs, of a specific plant. An EO is generally a cluster of multiple populations, or “sub-element occurrences,” of a plant in close proximity to one another, according to Laura Gadd, a botanist with the Natural Heritage Program.

This year, there are only nine Flytrap EOs of “excellent viability” of the 67 recorded, according to program data.

Historically, the Venus’ Flytrap’s highest populations were in Brunswick, New Hanover, Pender and Onslow Counties, according to Dan Ryan, Southeast Coastal Plain Program Director for the Nature Conservancy.

Though the Flytrap’s habitat is theoretically a 90-mile radius around Wilmington, large swaths of that land are not inhabitable for the finicky Flytrap.

Preferring soil high in acidity and low in nitrogen, the plant typically grows in soil that has been disturbed in some way.

Flytraps thrive in long leaf pine savannahs that burn frequently, as they cannot compete with overgrowth that springs up without the flames, Ryan said.

The Nature Conservancy conducts controlled burns on the Green Swamp Preserve in Brunswick County to encourage the Flytrap’s growth, burning about 2,000 acres of the 15,500 acre preserve last year, according to Angie Carl, a fire specialist with the Nature Conservancy.

“At some point, you’re going to lose your large, viable populations (without burning). You may have a few stragglers here and there on roadside ditches, but (not the ones) that people come from all over the world to see,” Carl said.

For Brandon Dean, his job sometimes feels like an exercise in futility.

Tasked with enforcing wildlife regulations on thousands of acres of public lands in Brunswick County, Dean, a field officer with the state Wildlife Resources Commission stationed in District 4, is one of the few law enforcement officers who tries to stop widespread poaching of Venus’ Flytraps.

Along with ginseng, the Flytrap is the most poached plant in the state, according to David Welch, director of the State Plant Conservation Program.

The fine per offense is supposed to apply per plant poached, Welch said. In reality, poachers are never charged for each plant they take, Dean and Criscoe said, saying judges don’t try criminals based on how many plants they take.

The state does not keep records specific to Flytrap poaching and does not keep records of reports of poaching, Kennedy said.

Testimonies from officers, scientists and others show, however, that thousands of Flytraps are poached nearly non-stop during the spring and summer.

Nursery inspectors try to verify Flytraps are bought and sold legitimately, said Michelle McGinnis, Plant Protection Field Supervisor for the State Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, but verifying a plant’s origin is difficult.

“All (poachers) have to say is they dug these Flytraps on their own property,” Dean said.

“As far as generally going out, patrolling and looking for folks (poaching), that’s not something we do on a regular basis because we don’t have the resources for that,” Kennedy said. “Not saying it’s a low priority…, (but) it’s not something we do on a daily basis.”

Through several doorways and classrooms, a team of researchers is fighting the Flytrap decline. Scientists at Southeastern Community College, led by Rebecca Westbrooks, are using micro-propagation to create thousands of cloned Flytraps to one day use to replenish poached habitats.

“We have so much poaching going on, it would be a wonderful thing if we could put these back into nature,” Westbrooks said.

By taking one plant, cutting it into several small pieces, feeding the plant a nutrient-rich mixture and chemically encouraging its root and shoot growth, researchers can turn one Flytrap into dozens in a short period of time.

“You do this technique, you get literally exponential numbers on this end,” Westbrooks said. “To date, we’ve cultured over a million.”

Not enough is known about how the DNA of the clones compares to natural Flytraps, making Westbrooks hesitant to place them in the wild, just yet.

“It’s not fairly listed as threatened or endangered.” said Andy Wood, a coastal ecologist. “We’re moving them to get them out of harm’s way but their habitat is still lost.” Wood argues that the destruction of the Flytrap’s natural habitat through development is the plant’s biggest threat going forward.

“The largest populations remaining are within public lands. … Outside those protected areas, we’re losing more and more of the Flytrap population,” said Richard LeBlond, a former biologist for the Natural Heritage Program. “It is good for people to know that they are choosing between economic use and wild Venus’ Flytraps.”


Society Notes

Upcoming Programs:

Monday,  May 20, 2019:  7:30-9:00.

Program:  Chris Fonvielle returns to talk about the Battles of Sugar Loaf, which took place on January 19 and February 11, 1865. The Union’s repeated defeat forced them to move troops across the river and approach Wilmington from the west.


Society Notes

By Darlene Bright, History Center Director

  • The History Center recorded 85 visitors in March. There were 30 people in attendance at the March meeting. The History Center was used by the Got-Em-On Live Bait Club, the United Daughters of the Confederacy (UDC) and Walk of Fame Committee.
  • Welcome to member, Christine Carrington of Wilmington and Lauren Gibbs of Wilmington.
  • Thanks to Darlene Bright for helping with the Newsletter.
  • Thank you goes to Jay Winner for fixing the “trip and fall” at the end of the handicapped ramp.
  • Thanks to Darlene and her daughter, Cindy, who did a bang up job of DEEP cleaning the History Center.
  • Thanks to Leslie Bright for painting the roadside sign and making new letters for the missing ones and painting them black.
  • Thanks to Leslie and Darlene Bright and Jay Winner and Rodney Jones for cleaning the exhibits and giving them their spring spruce-up.

Thanks to all who helped with the Anniversary Celebration!

Darlene Bright, Linda Ogden, Cheri McNeill, Steve Arthur for the refreshments. A huge thank you goes out to Ray and Pam Bramhall for donating the cost of the Anniversary Cake.  Thanks, too, to the Board members for donations toward the decorations; Jim Dugan, Leslie Bright, Jimmy Bartley, Barry Nelder, John Moseley, Steve Arthur, Juanita Winner.