Four Arrested In Pender County For Taking 900 Venus Fly Trap Plants

Four Arrested In Pender County For Taking 900 Venus Fly Trap Plants Featured

By / Local News / Wednesday, 07 January 2015 05:00

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PENDER COUNTY, NC - Venus Fly Traps capture the imagination of many, but don't try to take one home while hiking in the park or harvest them for sale, it's now a felony in North Carolina. On January 5th, four people made their first appearances in court facing charges for taking 900 plants. According to District Attorney Ben David, "This morning four defendants made their felony first appearances on charges of Felony Taking of Venus Fly Traps. The incident, which was investigated by the North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission, resulted in the recovery of roughly 900 plants. This is the first time the new law has been enforced as a felony in North Carolina. Defendants Jimmy Wortham, Paul Simmons, Paul Simmons, Jr., and Malcolm Douglas Massey all appeared before the Honorable Lindsey M. Luther to have their charges read and receive bond."
North Carolina Wildlife Officers arrested 23-year-old Jimmy Wortham, 49-year-old Paul Simmons, 22-year-old Paul Simmons Jr, and 30-year-old Malcolm Massey.
In a release issued the same day, David explained the class H felony is punishable by a maximum of 39 months in prison. Judge Luther gave Wortham and Simmons a $20,000 secured bond and gave Simmons, Jr. and Massey a $15,000 secured bond.
David handled the first appearance on behalf of the State and remarked, “Venus Fly Traps are a unique and important part of Southeastern North Carolina’s ecosystem. I am proud that the Fifth District will be the first to prosecute the new felony charge and commend NC Wildlife Resources for their enforcement of the law.”
All four defendants were given court appointed counsel. Their next court date is January 14, 2015 in Pender County District Court.
A Wildlife officer said someone reported seeing a man running across the road at the Holly Shelter Game Land with a large bag on his back. The officers later stopped a vehicle with suspects matching a description given earlier. They eventually found plants in the back of the vehicle.
Starting December 1st, 2014, the law makes it a felony to take Venus Fly Traps.
It is estimated that 35,800 plants remain in their native habitat which is only within 60 to 75 miles of Wilmington, North Carolina.
According to the North Carolina Division of Parks and Recreation, "Several interesting carnivorous plants thrive at Carolina Beach State Park by trapping and digesting insects. Among these carnivorous plants are pitcher plants, bladderworts, sundews and butterworts, but the most familiar—and the most spectacular—is the Venus flytrap.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."
Venus flytraps are native only within 60 to 75 miles of Wilmington. New propagation methods have saved the flytrap from becoming an endangered species. However, their numbers are declining due to the destruction of their habitats. Controlled burning is beneficial to flytraps, as well as other kinds of carnivorous plants, as it discourages competing species.
According to the North Carolina Division of Parks and Recreation, "Venus flytraps may be purchased at many retail nurseries. Help preserve this unique plant; do not remove the flytrap from the park."
According to, Back in 1760, North Carolina Colonial Governor Arthur Dobbs found an unusual plant; it was actually trapping and eating insects. Dobbs described his find in his diary: “The greatest wonder of the vegetable kingdom is a very curious unknown species. Upon touching the leaves, they instantly close like a spring trap. It bears a white flower. To this surprising plant, I have given the name Fly Trap.” A few years later, someone sent a flytrap to Charles Darwin who called it “one of the most wonderful plants in the world.”


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