Around Carolina: Carolina Beach State Park
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There’s plenty to see and do at Carolina Beach State Park, but the undisputed star of the show is a tiny plant – the venus fly trap.
"The venus fly trap is, you know, certainly one of the coolest plants in the world and that's not just me saying that. Darwin actually said that,” said Chris Helms, of Carolina Beach State Park.
They are very rare and found exclusively in this part of the world.
"Their range is about a 75 to 100 mile radius of Wilmington, and literally, we have folks come from miles away, other states, just to come to see that plant,” said Helms.
Because of the rarity of the venus fly trap, park officials must protect against poachers.
"Sometimes it's just a situation of your average park visitor that sees multiple plants and thinks, 'well, they won't miss just one,'" Helms said.
The venus fly trap is not listed as endangered but as a species of concern. Helms says it would not take much for them to be severely imperiled.
Aside from being prime venus fly trap habitat, Carolina Beach State Park also contains Sugarloaf Dune, which at 55 feet, is one of the highest points in New Hanover County.
"It was also an important navigational location along the river and also a lookout point during the Civil War,” Helms said.
Longleaf pines are prominent there, remnants of what was once a 93 million acre forest throughout much of the Southeast. To keep the longleaf pine ecosystem healthy, Carolina Beach State Park has a program of controlled burns – a couple hundred acres was burned this past winter.
"That fire doesn't necessarily help open the cones the way some people think, but it does reduce competition, opens the area up, creates a nice seed bed where seeds can get started on the mineral soil,” said Helms.
More than 550,000 people visited last year.