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Since Mike and I just moved to North Carolina (almost a month ago!) there is still so much to see and do around here. We want to try to take advantage of what our new area has to offer as much as possible. So you know we were pretty stoked when we heard about a carnivorous plant tour that is offered for free (!) every Saturday and Sunday at Carolina Beach State Park (just a short drive from where we live).

Take a hike with a park ranger and learn about the fascinating world of carnivorous plants that grow at Carolina Beach State Park. See plants that bite back such as sundews, bladderworts, butterworts, pitcher plants, and the Venus fly trap. Meet at the Nature Trail Parking Lot at 10:00 a.m. Source

carolina-beach-signYes please! So last weekend we decided to go on Saturday morning. As soon as we got there we headed over to the trail head where the group meets. We were looking at the park map and check out what else was posted on the board:

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WHAT?!?!?!?!?!?! hahaha that was the most random sign ever. We did not encounter anyone with AK-47s on the hike and honestly I don’t know how comfortable I would have felt if we did regardless of the warning sign!

So anyway, we had an awesome tour guide who answered all our random questions and told us about all the different ecosystems and plants within the park.

Our tour guide in the hat answering questions.

Our tour guide in the hat answering questions.

There are 13 different ecosystems within Carolina Beach State Park! On our hour long tour we only went through four of them but Mike and I plan on coming back and taking advantage of all the running/biking trails in order to see all 13 ecosystems.

Mike off exploring by himself

Mike off exploring by himself

Carolina Beach State Park is home to a number of different carnivorous plants. The first one we saw is the pitcher plant. The bottoms of their hollow tube-like stalks give off a sweet aroma so bugs are attracted to go inside the stalk. Once inside they make their way to the bottom and are unable to climb back out due to tiny hairs lining the stalks that are facing downward. The bugs are then digested by a juice that is at the bottom of the stalk. Yum!

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Yellow Pitcher Plant

The star of the hike was the Venus flytrap! The native home of the Venus flytrap is only found within 60-75 miles of Wilmington, NC. You can buy the plant at certain nurseries or retailers (like Walmart) but it’s native home is only a small section of the world – pretty crazy!

With the appearance of a clam shell, the trap is actually a modified leaf. Its interior may be colored pale yellow to bright red. When its trigger hairs are touched by an insect, the halves close and the guard hairs mesh, entrapping its prey. The plant then secretes digestive fluids and, within three to five days, nutrients from the prey are absorbed and the trap reopens. Each trap dies after closing and opening three times. Throughout the growing season, new traps emerge from underground stems to replace those that have died. Source

The Venus flytrap is actually quite small. If our guide didn’t point them out I would have totally missed them!

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After checking out all the plants and ecosystems we got a visit from a surprise guest:

Who can spot him?

Who can spot him?

We were only able to photograph one snake on my phone but we ended up seeing two different snakes towards the end of our tour. If you can’t find him in the above picture he is black and by the base of the main tree in the middle of the picture.

Overall our tour was awesome and we learned a lot of really cool facts about our new “hometown”. We can’t wait to go back to Carolina Beach Park on our own and explore the rest of the area. The best thing? It’s free and teaches us about our surrounding environment! I would highly recommend going to your state park’s website and checking out the ones around you. Or take a mini day trip to one within a few hours’ drive – I bet it’s worth it!

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Click on the image to visit NC State Parks

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