Five Minutes With: Marvin Bouknight, Oldfield Club naturalist

September 17, 2010 

Marvin Bouknight took this picture of hooded pitcher plants, a local species of carnivorous plant.


  • Marvin Bouknight's presentation about carnivorous plants is from 6 to 7 p.m. Wednesday at the Bluffton library. Admission is free. No registration necessary. Details: 843-255-6490

Nobody be alarmed, but there are flesh-eating plants just outside your door.

Actually, they're about the size of a quarter and mainly eat flies. But they are here and if you look hard enough, you'll find them.

Oldfield Club naturalist Marvin Bouknight will give a presentation about the local species of these types of plants Wednesday at the Bluffton library.

Bouknight explains why there's nothing to fear about carnivorous plants.

Question. Why hold a discussion on carnivorous plants?

Answer. When people think about carnivorous plants they think about man eaters, "Little Shop of Horrors." We have plants that are closer than you might think. A lot of people have them in their neighborhoods and don't even realize it.

Q. That's kind of freaky, really.

A. They're really not that big (laughs).

Q. What do we have locally?

A. One of the most common ones we find is called a floating bladderwort. It's aquatic, and when it floats up from the bottom it looks like a wheel. It's got a bright yellow flower that comes off a stalk. It has these microscopic bladders that have a trigger on the outside and when an insect comes by it actually sucks that insect into the bladder. They have hundreds of bladders and when you look at them they're black because they've got these tiny insects in them. You can see those in stagnant waters around the area.

The other one is a sundew. A sundew is the size of a quarter. You have to look close to see it. It has little tentacles with sticky globs of liquid on the outside and when something like an insect touches those they wrap around the insect and then they slowly digest it and take it to the plant.

Those are the most common. We've got some species of pitcher plants. The most rare is the Venus' flytrap. Those are only found around a few bays in Horry County.

Q. Why are they carnivorous to begin with?

A. It's an adaptation to living in nutrient-poor soils. It's usually in soils that are a bit sandy or just areas that are harsh for plants to grow. This is one of the adaptations they have to survive. They don't depend 100 percent on these insects, but they're needed for other processes in the plant. None of these have giant teeth or anything like that.

Q. So, we're not going to get attacked.

A. Plants you find in more tropical environments can go up some 15 feet and have some pretty wicked traps. Even the largest carnivorous plants are just going to catch a frog or a lizard on occasion but even that's out of the norm.

Q. Good. I'll sleep easier.

A. No need to worry about your tomato plant sneaking into your house or anything like that.

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