Bloom Where You're Planted

When it comes to Venus flytraps - otherwise known as "the great wonder of the vegetable kingdom" - Jessica Roach '19 is extremely curious.

By Caroline Cropp '99, '06M

Biology major Jessica Roach ’19 had never visited North Carolina until she moved here from Indiana in 2007. When she transferred to UNCW from Cape Fear Community College in 2016, little did she know her course of studies would lead her to help in the protection efforts of the state’s official carnivorous plant.

While studying the Venus flytrap under the guidance of Michael Durako, a professor in the Department of Biology and Marine Biology, she learned the intricacies and mysteries of these peculiar insect connoisseurs have made them vulnerable to poaching. As a result, most flytraps are grown in greenhouses, where they can be protected. Roach wrote a proposal requesting funds to build a greenhouse at Carolina Beach State Park.

“To my surprise, the board voted unanimously to approve funding for materials and future funding for any additions and expansions to the project,” said Roach. “I won’t lie – that was pretty rad, especially considering it was the first proposal I’d ever written.”

In addition to a dedicated location to propagate Venus flytraps and other carnivorous plants, Roach envisioned the greenhouse as a way to educate the public. She has already coordinated a program with MarineQuest to teach their summer camp “guppies” (children ages 4-7) about the plants. Additional plans approved in her proposal include building a bog garden behind the visitor’s center.

Though she has yet to officially complete her undergraduate work, she is already working on her graduate school application (for UNCW, of course).

“As someone pursuing a career in science, I can’t emphasize enough the importance I see in educating the public about your work. Making science less intimidating and more interactive will be something I work to do through the rest of my academic career.”

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