I first met Mr. Rehder, many years ago volunteering for the NC Azalea Festival. He was directing a motorcade made up of State Troopers on Motorcycles, a slew of limousines filled with national and local celebrities, and a motor home, over some sensitive property, with tactical ease.
Mr. Stanley Rehder, Sr. was memorable – tall & lanky, impeccable dressed, elegant in manner – a true Southern Gentleman. I met him in the years before I gave up manicured hands for the pursuits of gardening.
Husband Phil & I once spent a weekend, Sloggin’ & Boggin’ through the peat bogs of Holly Shelter, NC and the area known as the “Bays” further inland toward the Sandhills. Under the leadership of Mike Dunn of the North Carolina Museum of Natural Science we were following the Footsteps of B.W. Wells, Botanical Pioneer. It was on this trip I became interested in Carnivorous Plants.
In relating stories of this trip to my friend Julie Rehder, I learned that her dad was known as “Mr. Flytrap!” It was then he became my Horticultural Hero!
My friend Julie writes about her dad, “Stanley Rehder learned about Venus’ Flytraps and the various varieties of Sarracenia (pitcher) plants from his father, Will, and for more than 80 years he and his brother, Henry, enjoyed locating and cataloging the sites where these native plants flourished.”
Mr. Rehder, who graduated from NCSU in 1947 with a degree in Horticulture, was relentless in pushing forward the 1951 North Carolina Legislation to protect these rare plants – found only in peat bogs along the North and South Carolina coasts.
“To share his love and knowledge of the rare plants,” Julie adds, “ He appeared on national television shows – “That’s Incredible”, “Good Morning America”, and “The Today Show” where he had the privilege of being interviewed by Barbara Walters.
“He spent many years helping to cultivate a showcase of insectivorous plants behind Alderman School where today visitors can see the fruits of his efforts.”
The first time I visited his Carnivorous Plant sanctuary, Stanley, already in his late 80’s, drove like crazy through tall scrub pines. I did all I could to hang on as Stanley skillfully maneuvered his jeep bearing “FLYTRAP” license plates, through the maze wondering if it were wise to be on this “Uncle Willy Ride”. Sand sprayed in a wake as Stanley yanked the steering wheel, left, then right, then left, pines barely scraping the sides of the jeep. It was unmistakable that this was how he enjoyed showing his devotees an adventure – clearly a path he had traveled many times. Perhaps it was a way of disorienting one from returning – to protect the plants. I was certain he could do this trip blindfolded.
Getting out of the jeep, a twinkle in his eye, he said, “we have arrived!”
I was trying to peel my fingers off the” hang on straps”, as I could feel the color returning to back to my cheeks. I hopped down, and behold – there spread in front of me, a tapestry of botanical delight and awe.
This endangered array of Carnivorous Plants were save in Stanley’s Haven.
I was delighted to attend the dedication this past April, when the City of Wilmington officially named the garden passionately protected and created – natural garden –
The Stanley Rehder Carnivorous Plant Garden.
Stanley passed away this week – a life well lived, in passionate protection of the land he loved. He walked with celebrities with graceful elegance, of his beloved Sarracenia. A citizen fully devoted to community and nation.
A true World War II Hero and Horticulture Hero, I am honored to call friend.
Rest in Peace dear Stanley.
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There is a fund set up to honor his passion and plant heroism through the
North Carolina Coastal Land Trust, 131 Racine Drive, Wilmington, NC 28403 for the continued preservation efforts of the Stanley Rehder Carnivorous Plant Garden.