Carnivorous Venus, Pink Pitcher, Lovebug and Monkey Cups…pretty little eaters at McMillan Greenhouse, Charlotte free fun things to see

My daughter and I had great time visiting the McMillan Greenhouse inside Charlotte Botanical Gardens (located on the east side of the university’s campus). We spent couple hours browsing, touching, smelling, gasping and laughing at the weirdest, funniest and most bizarre plants from around the world. The greenhouse has several rooms: Carnivorous, Orchids, Cactus, Dinosaurs (yeah that’s right!), and Tropical. Admission is free and the greenhouse is open daily 10AM-3PM (1-4PM on Sunday).

This post features the “ferocious” carnivorous plants: Venus flytrap, Pink pitcher, Lovebug Sarracenia Hybrid and the Monkey Cups.

My daughter pleaded for a Venus flytrap ($8 for sale).

Happy kid got her wish...a carnivorous plant home!

Our little flytrap: Dionaea Muscipula...sounds fierce!


Interesting facts:
• Venus flytrap lives only on the coast of North and South Carolina

• Venus Flytrap feeds on insects, yet big plants can catch and digest small frogs. It uses its bright red pigmentation to attract prey.

• The trap shuts in 0.3 seconds (one of the fastest plant movements in the world!) To avoid energy waste the trap snaps only after the trigger hairs have been stimulated twice within few seconds.

• It takes several days for the plant to completely digest an insect, and reopen its trap. Smaller insects sometimes escape despite a highly evolved grid of teeth that interlock when the trap closes.

• A trap is only good for 4 to 6 catches. After that, the trap withers, turns brown, and falls off. Read more and see a frog capturing video here.

When we got home we transferred the plant into a bigger pot (thanks to the wonderful staff we got free peat moss soil, which is best for Venus flytrap) with a large saucer and set it on the outdoor table in full sun. Within days she got to work, and caught three insects! All we had to do is give it water every day.

Venus flytrap only lives in South and North Carolina

Few days later, she caught a large mosquito and a couple of flies. Bravo!

The pitcher plants lure insects inside their specially designed leaves with pretty colors and sweet scents. The inner walls are slippery trapping most of the intruders for good. As victims accumulate in the depths of the pitcher, digestive juices are secreted that liquify the prey for absorption.

Carnivorous plants native to South and North Carolina

Pretty in pink, yet lethal

Monkey Cups is a tropical pitcher plant that lives in South China, Indonesia, Malaysia, Borneo, Sumatra, Madagascar, Seychelles and Australia. As the name suggests monkeys use them as drink fountains.

Weird hungry and vicious plants on display at Charlotte Botanical Gardens

The monkey cups plant gets many visitors, some just looking for an easy meal inside the pitcher.

Hybrid mini carnivorous plants

What love got to do with it?

Interested to start your own bog garden? The McMillan Greenhouse has all you need: plants, knowledge and friendly staff on hand.

Learn all there is about carnivorous and orchis at Charlotte Botanical Gardens

Cute as a bog garden? Pretty little eaters...

Don’t forget McMillan’s biggest plant sale of the year will take place April 20 and 21st, 2012 8AM-3PM at the greenhouse.

Crazy, cool science experiments at Discovery Place, Charlotte fun things to do with kids

On a bed of nails she makes me wait…

Some wacky, educational, yet always cool stuff at Discovery Place downtown Charlotte. I love this place! Admission is $12 adults, $10 seniors and $9 children 2-13.

Amazing frogs! Discovery Place Charlotte where natural science is always fun

The Fantastic Frogs exhibit at Discovery Place science museum in Charlotte features exotic live frogs from all over the world with striking survival capabilities. Here you can immerse in the wild, colorful world of amphibians and see how frogs use disgusing techinques to attract mates, deceive predators and survive.

Fantastic frogs hands on video presentation Discovery Place

Playing the frog lifecycle game


There are several interactive stations kids can play at, scientific videos and of course plenty of frogs. Free with museum admission ($12 adults, $10 seniors, $9 children (2-12))

The Marine Cane, Bufo Marinus, can survive almost anywhere in the southern hemisphere.

The Cane Toad

The toad that conquered most of Australia


Also known as the Cane Toad, it was brought from Hawaii to Australia in a failed attempt to control sugar cane beetle population.

With no natural enemies the toad has flourished and destroyed much of the habitat it was meant to protect.

It is now considered one of the world’s worst invasive species.

The Pacman Frog, Ceratrophys Ornata, can puff up to considerable size and has a large mouth (half as big as the body) with sharp teeth lining the bottowm jaw which deliver a powerful killler bite.

Frog with one of the largest mouths

Dont mess with the Pacman Frog!

The Mighty Poison Dart Frogs
• The Dying Poison Dart Frog, Dendrobates Tinctorious, according to legend was used by Amerindians from Guyana and Amazon to change the green color of a young parrot’s feathers by plucking the desired area bald and then rubbing with the living frog. When new feathers grew in they will be magically dyed bright yellow and red.

• The Blue Poison Dart Frog, Dendrobates Azureus,

Dendrobates azureus most territorial of dart frogs specie

The most fierce dart frogs females will defend territory and mating rights to their death

is considered one of the most territorial frogs, with females fiercely defending against other trespassing females.

During the breeding season, a victorious females wins the mating rights with the male of choice.

Two weeks after laying her eggs she must transfer them to separate pools as the growing tadpoles are cannibalistic.

• The Black-Legged Poison Dart Frog, Phyllobates Bicolor, is one of the three frog species whose toxin was used to poison the spears of Columbian Choco Indians hunters.

• The Green and Black Poison Dart Frog, Dendrobates Auratus, possesses a natural compound called epibatidine that has powerful pain-killing properties. It is 200 times stronger than morphine and is non-addictive.

Full of epibatidine to produce efective pain medicine

It packs a pain killing toxin that is 200 times stornger than morphine

• The Golden Poison Dart Frog, Phyllobates Terribilis, is the world’s most poisonous frog, 4 times as toxic as the Blue Poison Dart Frog and 40 times more toxic than the Black-Legged Poison Dart Frog.

More incredible frog trivia:
• The Hairy Toad, Trichobatrachus Robustus, has bony protrusions that shoot out from the toe pads like claws to scare away predators; it’s not yet clear if they can also retract.

• Frog freeze! The Wood Frog turns its flesh from flexible to frozen during winter. The “popsicle” frog remains in a frigid state until the temperature rises, when it thaws back to life.

• The gliding-ator, Polypedates Dennysi, takes a leap of faith through the rainforest canopy to escape predators and to find mates.

• The tomato frog produces a sticky slime that is 25 times stronger than cement.

Visit Discovery Place to enjoy and learn about world’s most interesting creatures.

Think it up at Discovery Place! The best kids things to do in Charlotte

Everyone is an artist at Think It Up, the arts and crafts exhibit at Discovery Place museum downtown Charlotte. I wrote about Cool Stuff science and World Alive nature exhibits.
Think Up arts and crafts room Children Museum

Admission to Discovery Place is $12 adults, $10 seniors and $9 children 2-13 (plus $7 to park in the garage unless you’re lucky to find a spot on the street).

The museum is open daily, 9-4 Monday to Friday, 10-6 Saturday and 1-5 Sunday.

This post is about being smart and creative. You start with foil sculpting…

Then you move on to make your own fancy shoes and trendy leather accessories.

Arts and crafts fun making your own accessories

Explore the grace of moving air. Create your own air symphony using wind sockets!

Learn the power and fun of moving air

See how far can paper objects fly. Build your own UFO and let the wind turbine do the rest.

North Carolina best science museum

Finish up with a well deserved break on the dance floor.

Fun in the fog room science museum

Are you ready for some fun?

Cowpens National Battlefield – Monuments, stories, quotes and artifacts

“Just hold up your heads, boys, three fires and you are free…when you return to your homes, how the old folks will bless you, and the girls will kiss you, for your gallant conduct.”

The Cowpens National Battlefield park near Greenville-Spartanburg area is home to one of the most critical battles of the American Revolution. On this field, on January 17, 1781 General Daniel Morgan led his army to a brilliant victory over Lt. Col. Banastre Tarleton’s British forces, which helped turn the tide in our favor.

Admission is free and the park is open daily from dawn to dusk. There is plenty for kids to enjoy. Below are some of the stories, quotes and artifacts I found most interesting (historical data, quotes and illustrations are from the museum exhibits).

General Daniel Morgan, a tough man and a military genius

Life size replica of Gen. Morgan riding his horse at Cowpens

The Old Wagoner, General Daniel Morgan, a military genious and self-made man

Morgan’s military genius was revealed when he deployed the double envelopment, a military strategy unique during Revolution and one of the few in world’s history.

Morgan chose Cowpens for its tactical advantages: a river to the rear to discourage the ranks from breaking, a rising ground on which to post his regulars, an open forest and marsh on one side to thwart flanking maneuvers.

The battle lasted less than an hour and the British losses were staggering: 110 killed, 229 wounded and 600 captured or missing.

Morgan later told a friend that he had given “Bloody” Tarleton and the British a “devil of a whipping”

“…Our success was complete…Our loss was inconsiderable, not having more than twelve killed and sixty wounded… General Morgan to General Greene, January 19, 1781.

Great generals are scarce – there are few Morgans to be found” General Nathaniel Greene 1781.

The British were dumbfounded…the unthinkable happened!

Monument at the entrance to Cowpens National Battlefield museum


“The fire on both sides produced much slaughter…”

Lt. Col Banastre Tarleton

The Edinburgh Advertiser reports on April 3, 1781 the unfathomed defeat of the British at the Battle of Cowpens:

“Of the action between Lieutenant-Colonel Tarleton and their General Morgan, on the 17th…they have gone so far as to assert, that the former was totally defeated.”

“The disaster of the 17th of January cannot be imputed to any defect in my conduct, as the detachment was certainly superior to the force against which it was sent…”
Lord Cornwallis

Battle of Cowpens artifacts
Inside the museum you can admire the 1760 British Dragoons officer’s sword with an iron semi-basket kilt, and a bluish blade engraved and gilded with Scottish emblems. Dragoons were the “eyes of the army”, their mission was to prevent surprise attacks. Also on display is a Scottish 71st Fraser’s Highlanders officer’s broad sword.

1700s sabers swords pistols used in American Revolution

Tools of the trade...exquisite Dragoon sabers

The Mighty Moo and The Herd
In theater you can see models of the USS Cowpens CVL-25 and CG-63 ships, both nicknamed “Mighty Moo”. The USS Cowpens, CG-63, is a a state-of-the-art guided missile cruiser commissioned by the U.S. Navy in 1991 in Charleston. On March 20, 2003, she fired the first Tomahawk missile into Iraq during Operation Iraqi Freedom.

Model replica of the USS Cowpens CG-63

Mighty Moo cruiser was commissioned in 1991 in Charleston

The museum also displays a replica of the two cannons used by the British at the Battle of Cowpens. The guns were light enough to be carried on horseback. When mounted on long shafts they could be moved by soldiers. The cannons were nicknamed “grasshoppers” because they hoped when fired!

British light artillery used in the American Revolution

Replica of the British grasshopper captured at Cowpens

The capture of the “Grasshoppers”
Near the end of the battle, as the Americans swept forward, two Continental officers sought to capture the enemy’s “grasshopper” canons. Captain Anderson of Maryland won the race when he used his spontoon to vault forward onto one of the grasshoppers. Captain Kirkwood of Delaware captured the other.

Stories of courage in the American Revolution

Capt. Anderson of Maryland jumps to capture the Grasshopper cannon

The clash of swords and ultimate loyalty…
American horsemen led by Lt. Col. William Washington (George Washington’s second cousin) clashed with retreating British officers of the 17th Light Dragoons.

Young servant shoots British officer to save Lt. Washington

Young servant risks his life to save that of his master

Washington quickly outpaced his troops, and then broke his weapon at the hilt when he got into a sword fight with a British officer.

According to legend, Washington’s young servant rode up just in time saving his life by shooting the attacking British officer.

This account inspired artist William Ranney to paint this vivid battle scene in 1845.

The Washington Light Infantry of Charleston, South Carolina erected this monument in 1856 to commemorate this important American victory.

Revolutionary War memorial

Monument erected in 1856 to honor the victory at Cowpens


For more inspiring stories from the Battle of Cowpens visit the park’s official website.

You can read details about the battle, what happened soon thereafter, how the families coped during the war and the important role played by women and African American slaves.

Speaking of women, here is a brief summary of famous South Carolina daughters and their heroic acts of patriotism during Independence War.

Mark your calendar!
January 15 and 16, 2011 is the Anniversary Celebration of the Battle of Cowpens. There will be an encampment, lantern tours, live firing demonstrations, and author lectures. For more details call (864) 461-2828.

Be proud at Cowpens National Battlefield in beautiful South Carolina!

Wild about animals at Discovery Place, Charlotte fun kids things to do

I strongly believe the completely redesigned Discovery Place downtown Charlotte is the coolest science museum in the Southeast! Discovery Place is open daily 9AM to 4PM (6PM Saturday, noon to 5PM Sunday). Admission is $12 adults, $10 seniors, $9 children 2-13 and free for those under 2.
This post is about the “Rainforest” and “World Alive” exhibits, filled with North Carolina native as well as exotic animals from around the world.

Touch the iguana Charlotte World Alive exhibit

Its so smooth!

It’s a jungle out here! Look out for python, dart frogs, macaws, sloth and cheerful birds. Make sure to attend the A World Apart free live show (daily at 3PM, free admission)

Jungle adventures for children of all ages

Walking a tight rope in Charlotte...

At “Touch a Tank” children can pet horse and hermit crabs, star fish, and sea urchins. How cool is that?

Sea creatures tank World Alive exhibit

Hello Patrick!

The aquarium consists of 15 tanks featuring diverse ecosystems: Indo-Pacific coral reef, North Carolina coastal habitat, and a seafloor reef with small sharks, stingrays, jellyfish and more.

Tropical coral freshwater fish marine creatures

Salt marsh habitat in North Carolina

We spent the most time in the science lab. Lana was trilled to look at all sorts of objecs under the fancy microscope and to manipulate the images on the computer.

Analyzing objects under the microscope

Your keys look huge mommy!

Yes, it’s real! Come enjoy an assortment of fresh wild animal poop, courtesy of black bears, bobcats, deer, raccoons and more…It stinks in here!

Bear deer bobcat raccoon snake moose scat samples

Yuk, smelly bear poop!

Dare to flex your bear muscles?

Life size replicas grizzly polar black bears

Arrrr...they look fierce!

I was drawn to the carnivorous plants…good think they were behind the glass.

Amazing Venus trap plants Charlotte Science exhibits

Tough as nails...watch out she will bite you!

A trip back in time. It’s a small world really…

Skeletons of our ancestors

Whos your daddy?

Be forever childish at Discovery Place in Charlotte!

Trout hatchery tour, free things to do in beautiful Pisgah National Forest

One fish two fish red fish blue fish…

Western North Carolina, the land of the waterfalls, is truly breathtaking in the fall.

Bobby N Setzer Fish Hatchery Raceway Exhibit

Fun free wild things to do inside Blue Ridge Parkway


Recently, we spend a weekend hiking between Hendersonville and Brevard.

We had fun visiting the Bobby N. Setzer Fish Hatchery and Raceway Exhibit housed at the Pisgah Center for Wildlife Education.

This is the largest hatchery in the state, which stocks about half million brook, rainbow and brown trout a year and feeds over 80 streams and lakes in 15 counties.

The center is located inside the Pigah National Forest of off Hwy 276 and about 20 minutes drive from scenic Blue Ridge Parkway.

Blue Ridge Parkway Trout Fishing

Self guided tour at the Fish Hatchery, Pisgah Center for Wildlife Education

The raceway exhibit is open Monday to Saturday, 8AM to 5PM and admission is free.

Here you can watch and feed brook, rainbow and brown trout.

The fingerlings grow in a series of 54 outdoor raceways, which are elongated, concrete fish-rearing ponds with a constant flow of fresh water.

In fact the raceways channel 3,500 gallons per minute of cold mountain water from nearby Davidson River and Grogan Creek!

About the trout… (data from the “Raising Trout for North Carolina Waters” brochure)

North Carolina native trout

Beautiful specled trout at Bobby Setzer Hatchery


The brook trout, is North Carolina’s only native trout, nicknamed “speckle” because of the blue-bordered, red spots on its flanks. The back has green worm-like markings and the lower fins are red with a black stripe and white leading edge.

The rainbow trout was brought from the Pacific Northwest in the late 1800s. It has many dark spots, a greenish back that fades into silvery white on its belly and a red stripe along its flanks (hence the name). Rainbow trout can tolerate warmer waters than brook trout.

The brown trout was brought from Europe, also in the late 1800s. It is brownish yellow with many black and few bright-red spots along its flanks. Currently, it thrives in the North Caolina streams and can tolerate warm and turbid waters.

Once done with the hatchery tour, you can take the easy interpretive trail through the beautifully restored wildlife garden and hardwood forest habitat. Inside the auditorium you can get up close to colorful fish, frogs, salamanders and snakes.

If you plan to stick around for a few days, take advantage of the high quality outdoor classes for all age and skill levels: fly tying and fishing, hunter education, outdoor cooking, waterfall photography and more. Details online or by phone at (828) 877-4423.

Easily accessible waterfalls Blue Ridge Parkway

Nearby Looking Glass Falls right off Hwy 276

For ever enchanted in beautiful Western North Carolina!