Carnivorous plants have always fascinated me. I first came across them on the singing sands of Dorcas Bay in Bruce National Park in Ontario, pitcher plants with draping yellow blossoms.
Once I moved to Florida, I made a point of finding out where the best places to find carnivorous plants were in our wild spaces. Surprisingly, I stumbled across some Venus fly-traps.
They aren’t from around here. In fact, ground zero for Venus fly-traps in the wild is Wilmington, North Carolina. They are native to an area within less than sixty miles of the city.
So when Mom and I went to Wilmington, we asked around as to where we could see them in the wild, encouraged by the sighting of a massive piece of art glass downtown celebrating the city’s rare plant.
Our innkeeper told us the secret of a place in town where we could find them. There wasn’t a name for the location, nor was there anywhere to park. But we found it.
At the time, I knew of it as “Independence Bog.” That’s how I filed my photos. But when John and I visited Wilmington four years later and I took him there, to my surprise, it now had a name.
And a parking area. And a beautiful accessible boardwalk where there had only been flagstones through the bog for Mom and I to walk on. Best of all, it was no longer a secret I had to keep.
Plan Your Visit
Location: Wilmington, North Carolina
Address: 3800 Canterbury Road, Wilmington NC
Hours: Daylight hours only
Do not touch the plants. It is a felony to dig up a Venus fly-trap in North Carolina, and cameras keep watch over the entire garden.
Stay on the boardwalk and stepping stone paths and don’t bring pets into the bog, as they can easily damage these delicate plants.
There is an accessible parking spot and a boardwalk with an overlook across the garden.
All interpretive information can be read along the boardwalk, which provides excellent views across the pocosin bog.
Taking US 17 / 74 east into Wilmington, follow Business US 17 across the Cape Fear River. Follow Business US 17 / 76 east along Dawson St. After 1.1 miles, exit onto US 17 / 76 at Oleander Dr.
In 1.2 miles, turn right onto Independence Blvd. Continue 0.7 mile to Canterbury Rd. Turn left. The entrance to the garden parking area is on the right immediately after you pass the school exit, across from Fordham Rd.
Inside the Gardens
Although less than an acre in size, the Stanley Rehder Carnivorous Plant Garden is a must-see for anyone who is wowed by – or curious about – carnivorous plants.
The pocosin bog is an unusual type of bog found along the Atlantic Coast, a “swamp on a hill” of sandy soil with underlying peat.
The acidity created by the surrounding longleaf pine forest is what makes for the perfect breeding ground for carnivorous plants, especially pitcher plants.
Established by George Stanley Rehder, Sr., who was known around Wilmington as “The Flytrap Man,” this is a densely packed cultivated garden of carnivores.
We’ve seen nothing as showy in the wild, proving that 25 years of cultivating native plants can lead to a spectacular result.
You are welcome to walk on the flagstones in the bog to look closely at the plants, which you’ll need to do in order to see the Venus fly-traps.
Their white flowers on a tall stem serve as a flag to look down and see their open traps – or sometimes closed traps, if an insect wandered in.
The pitcher plants steal the show, because they are clustered so tightly and come in many different varieties.
Expect to see their blooms in late April and through May, but some may linger longer. Except when they die back after a frost, the pitchers themselves are very colorfully patterned.
Walk through the Stanley Rehder Carnivorous Plant Garden with us by viewing our photographs from our visit. Click to open the gallery.