BOILING SPRING LAKES, NC (WWAY) -- Venus Flytraps often fall victim to poachers.
Tuesday, Myra Lawson, Betty Hill, and William Riley were caught stealing around 300 of these plants in Boiling Spring Lakes.
Investigators say a witness saw the suspects acting suspicious and called police.
Lawson, Hill and Riley all face one count of Taking Certain Wild Plants from the Land of Another.
Dan Sheret, caretaker of Stanley Rehder Carnivorous Plant Garden, says Venus Flytrap poaching has been a problem in North Carolina for 25 years.
"There is a market to sell these plants,” said Sheret.
He says over the last three years, poaching has become an epidemic in the state as the value of plants has increased.
"When you are talking about somebody stealing 1,000 plants, that becomes money,” said Sheret.
Sheret says a Venus Flytrap will go for between seven and ten dollars at the store; on the black market, he says that amount almost quadruples.
“They can run up to 30 to 40 dollars individually,” he said.
But, it’s a price many are willing to pay for the plants possible healing powers.
"Most of them end up ground up into a commercial snake oil tincture,” said Sheret.
Some argue the oil has cancer fighting aspects, while others are skeptic.
"That has never been proven,” said Sheret.
What has been proven, the Venus Flytrap population has decreased.
"There are only about an estimated 35,000 of these plants left in the wild,” said Sheret.
After poachers stole more than 1,000 Flytraps from the Stanley Rehder Carnivorous Plant Garden, the city of Wilmington put up cameras to monitor the park's activity.
“They are good insurance if we have anymore incursions and thefts," said Sheret
Thefts, admirers of the plant do not welcome.
"It's not cool to do that,” said Tyler Kester.
These plants only grow between a 70 mile radius of Wilmington.
Next month, the General Assembly will decide whether or not to make poaching the plants illegal in New Hanover County.