Stanley Rehder Carnivorous Plant Garden
by Sue Cag
A short path leads through small magnolia and longleaf pine trees to a deck overlooking an attractive field of crimson, pink, gold, and violet pitcher plants. The view reminds me of a field of brightly colored tulips. The tall pitcher plants steal the show until you climb down to a rock path running through the center of the flower bed. Down there, so low to the ground and mixed in with grasses and other plants, I find venus flytraps galore. Vivid red mouths gape open while others look like closed eyes, with their green eyelashes pressed together. White flowers appear from a single shoot approximately seven inches above their low rosettes.
I also find numerous tiny sundews. I crouch down to see these hidden pink gems as closely as possible. I can see the sticky tentacles shooting out in every direction, glistening in the sunshine. I also find purple pitcher plants growing low to the ground, filled with tiny pools of water, like miniature cups. In the water I see the reflection of the taller plants above. I touch the white hairs inside the hood and they feel coarse under my fingertips.
I sniff most of the plants here and although most have no scent, I find pitcher plants that smell deliciously syrupy sweet. While I’m enjoying this new scent, I hear a frog bellowing behind me. Where is he? I look under the caps of several yellow pitcher plants to find him down the shoot of the largest one. A little green tree frog climbs up toward me, almost to the top.
Visitors come and go, squeezing past me on the narrow path. I spend hours examining all of the shapes, folds, and patterns of all the leaves and flowers. Two white-top pitcher plants face each other forming a heart shape. A group of hooded pitcher plants turn toward each other and appear as though they’re engaged in a lively conversation. Red pitcher plants hang their heads down low with their petals drooped to their sides. Yellow caps stand tall and proud, tinges of maroon on the backs of their necks. The sun ducks behind the longleaf pine trees and the colors appear even more vivid in the shade. I’m alone in the garden now and I rest silently. A mockingbird chatters in the branches above. The little tree frog squeaks from his position inside the big pitcher plant. A delicate breeze rocks the thin flower stalks gently side to side. The threatened venus flytraps hide low to the earth, imperceptibly moving and growing.
Venus flytraps are to Wilmington as tulips are to Turkey. They are our most prized native plant and while they may be cultivated elsewhere in the world, they are native only to our area, specifically within a 60-mile radius or so of our fair city. A fine garden of these rosette snappers resides at 3800 Canterbury Lane, adjacent to Alderman Elementary (near Independence Mall). Dedicated to carnivorous plant expert Stanley Rehder who tended the garden for many years, the 3/4-acre Stanley Rehder Carnivorous Plant Garden is free, handicap accessible, and open to the public during daylight hours year round, with peak blooming in the spring and summer. Because of their limited range, habitat destruction due to our human activity, and poaching incidents such as the 2013 heist of more than 1,000 plants valued at $20,000, the venus flytrap is a threatened species. Help our most prized native plant along with our entire natural world by trampling less, buying less, letting things go wild, and enjoying life a whole lot more.
All photos by Sue Cag and Kim Dicso. All Rights Reserved. Photos may not be used without permission.