By late May, white flowers from blooming Venus' flytraps should have covered the boggy bottom of Wilmington's Stanley Rehder Carnivorous Plant Garden.
"It literally should be just white everywhere," said Jerry Bell, a city horticulturist.
But it wasn't. The sandy soil below was pockmarked with shallow pits – evidence of more than 1,000 flytraps stolen from the garden at the city's Alderman Park.
The theft was so massive it wiped out 90 percent of the flytraps in the garden, named in honor of Stanley Rehder, who tended the plants for decades before he died in October. Known as the "flytrap man," Rehder served as an informal spokesman and public advocate for the rare plants, which only grow naturally within 60 to 90 miles of Wilmington.
After hearing about the garden's devastation, his daughter Julie Rehder felt physically sick.
"There are a lot of tears from me, but I know there are tears in heaven," Rehder said. "It's just devastating."
Since so many plants were dug out, little remains to generate seeds for future replanting, according to the city.
"There are hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of people who love this place," Rehder said. "My father's legacy has been destroyed and it takes so many years for the plants to get to that point, and it is a despicable human being or beings that will take away something that is a rare part of our community."
Each plant is valued at about $20 each, so the city valued the stolen plants at $20,000.
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